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Following Jane Austen's untimely death in 1817 at age 41, her "most beloved sister" destroyed most of their correspondence; in her first novel, House of Lords peer Pitkeathley attempts to fill in the gaps through the eyes of Cassandra, Jane's closest confidante and sharpest critic. Cassandra tells of the Austen family's precarious position on the lowest tier of Hampshire's aristocracy, Jane's early attempts at "scribbling" and the crushing romantic disappointments of the two. Throughout, Cassandra's detailed look at her younger sister showcases not only Jane's literary accomplishments and "the low spirits, the anger, even the bitterness in her," but also her indefatigable romanticism. Cassandra's voice is perfectly pitched, true to Austen's England, and jam-packed with Austen trivia. Descriptions of known events in the sisters' lives, however, tend toward the didactic, especially compared to Pitkeathley's imaginative leaps regarding the sisters' secrets; as such, the seams between actual and imagined history are entirely too visible. Ardent Austen devotees will be undeterred by the uneven narrative, but casual fans may want to pass. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.