Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What to Read in Quarantine? : A Special Post Part 2

What to Read in Quarantine? : A Special Post Part 2

Another excellent book you may hopefully be able to obtain from your library's e-book system or favorite bookseller is. . .

The Jane Austen SocietyThe Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner--Austenesque/Historical Fiction

Thanks to NetGalley for an e-ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed in my review are my own and not affected by NetGalley's service.

A race against time to save Jane Austen's legacy in Chawton, the Hampshire village where she spent her final days writing and revising her famous novels. It all begins in in June 1932 when a chance meeting between Adam Berwick, a sad farmer mourning his lost family and educational opportunities, and an American tourist inspires Adam to spend his winter reading Jane Austen. He falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet and wonders at how Mr. Darcy can mess up the situation any more. Though no one understands Adam's desire to read and learn, her returns to Jane Austen again and again as winters pass.

In 1943 in the same Hampshire village where Adam learns to love literature again, Dr. Gray ponders the weight of his responsibilities as a country doctor and as a member of the school board of trustees. Miss Adeline Lewis hopes to inspire her students by teaching Jane Austen and other 18th-century women writers in opposition of the school board. Adeline's star pupil, Evie Stone, is forced to leave school at 14 to work but not without a book list provided by her beloved Miss Lewis. Miss Lewis too is about to leave the school before she is fired. She is engaged to her childhood pal Samuel Grover and intends to keep house and wait for his return from war, a return that will never come.

Two years later the war is over and the village of Chawton will never be the same. Adeline is trying to carry on without her husband, killed in action before they were settled into married life. She looks forward to impending motherhood. An American actress and Jane Austen devotee, Mimi Harrison, is eager to obtain Jane Austen's jewelry at auction and thus begins preserving the author's legacy, while her fiance, Jack Leonard, believes making Mimi's Austen dreams come true will allow him to score with the lady, Willoughby style.

Back in Chawton, Frances Knight, last of the Knight family, last of Jane Austen's brother's line, is waiting for her father to die. Waiting to see if he finally acknowledged her years of service to him - years sacrificed, love lost and never regained. Meanwhile, her housemaid Evie plans to help Miss Knight by voraciously scouring the library for any trace of Jane Austen. This odd assortment of people, plus a few others, will form the Jane Austen Society in hopes of creating a museum in the old steward's cottage in Chawton. Their lives intersect in ways none of them can understand just yet but they all share a devotion to one of the greatest writers in the English language.

It's impossible to fully describe this novel and how I feel about it. I loved the concept of the novel, the preservation of a beloved author's legacy in her hometown, the creation of the museum many of us have made our own pilgrimages to and the friendship and romances between the characters. I found the story compelling and kept turning the page to read what would happen next. Mostly I cared about whether the society would be able to save the Knight library and preserve the cottage. It took a really long time to get there and the end was maybe a bit rushed.

What I didn't like is how contrived this story is. Astute Austen readers will pick up on similarities between the characters of this novel, the "real" people of Chawton and the characters in Jane Austen's novels, yet only ONE character in the entire plot figures this out at the end. This story is permeated with the somberness of a generation caught up in two catastrophic world wars and is therefore, more tinged with sadness that I normally prefer. As Jane Austen once said, let other pens dwell on guilt and misery! The relationships between the characters are very predictable for the most part. One storyline surprised me at the end. The one plot that I really really didn't like was the Mimi plot. It reflects real life a little too much with a sexual assault scene and an actress who knowingly falls for a "bad boy" because of sexual attraction. The rest of the characters and plots I enjoyed, particularly Evie's catalog of the Knight library.

The characters in this novel are composites of Austen characters and yet they are also fully flesh and blood, much like Austen's own characters. We feel right along with them and grieve and ache as they do and experience joy and romance. Shy Adam Berwick may be a farmer but he once had dreams of attending University and studying literature. The only male left in his family after the Great War and the Spanish flu, he was forced to give up those dreams and stay with his mother who doesn't understand him. My heart broke for Adam more than any of the other characters. I empathize entirely with the rut he is stuck in and how much that lost dream meant to him. He's just so sad and lonely. I was hard pressed to put my finger on WHICH Austen character he could be but perhaps Captain Benwick?

Mary Anne/Mimi is a bit of an idealistic dreamer yet she enters into a relationship with Jack with eyes wide open. A lifelong lover of Austen, Mimi, like Elizabeth Bennet, has high standards for herself and won't allow herself to be with any man who doesn't respect her. She experiences a #MeToo moment with a 1940s Harvey Weinstein that forces her to rethink her career. At 35, she's old for Hollywood and her time on the big screen may be coming to an end. Intelligent and resourceful, Mimi decides to retire part-time to Hampshire where she can indulge her Austen dreams. I like how she sets out to preserve Jane Austen's legacy from the beginning and how she sparked a rebirth in Adam. I REALLY disliked her relationship with Jack though. She knows he's Henry Crawford and likes that she can ostensibly reform him. I disagree but I know plenty of people on team Crawford. Mimi has some very frank conversations with people she's only just met. Aren't the British supposed to be more reserved than Americans? That was very awkward and unrealistic.

The most beautiful and heart-wrenching plotline is the Dr. Gray/Adeline plot. Austen lovers will figure out which characters they are pretty quickly. Dr. Gray is a tragic figure. He hasn't gotten over the death of his wife, feeling guilty because he couldn't save her. He can't let the past go yet he tries to stay in the present and not think too much about what happened. When tragedy hits Adeline, he worries about her in a very sweet way. She seems him as a bit paternalistic at times though and keeps pushing against him. He truly cares but can't see what's in front of his nose. I like Adeline's spark and her spunk. Like Elizabeth Bennet, her courage rises at every attempt to intimidate her. When the school board said no, she did it anyway. Adeline had a terrible shock and is grieving in an unhealthy way but who can blame her? I experienced all the emotions with these two. Jane Austen brings them together and sparks fly but both are broken and perhaps they can't be made whole again to experience life.

Miss Frances is clearly Anne Elliott with the personality of Fanny Price. She accepts what is and that's that. She never fights back or gets upset at the injustices her terrible father inflicted on her. Old Mr. Knight is a horrid tyrant of the Georgette Heyer type without any humor. For years he has bullied his daughter, ignored her and basically treated her like dirt. He blames her for not marrying and producing an heir. Evie, her housemaid, is devoted to Miss Frances. Evie, a lively girl of 16, would rather spend her nights reading in the library than going out or even sleeping. Evie still has a strong passion for learning and literature. Her plot engaged me the most and I was eager to sit there next to her looking at the books. One day I simply must go to Chawton House Library. Evie's plot hook kept me turning pages late into the night.

Andrew Forrester, a solicitor from Alton and Yardley Sinclair, an auctioneer from London, round out the Jane Austen Society. Andrew is scrupulous about rules and regulations even when it comes to his personal feelings. His feelings are obvious and he directly corresponds to one Austen hero. The situation is basically the same. I found him a bit too black and white and not a character I sympathize with. He needs to do something and take action. Yardley is funny. At first I thought he was just a money hungry businessman but soon his passion for Jane Austen becomes clear. Then the reader knows he has the very best of intentions. Yardley seems to be the only character who isn't broken. He's a little bit of light relief in a heavy story.

Minor characters that populate Chawton and make this English village so charming are Harriet Peckham, Dr. Gray's secretary. I can't stand her. She's a nosy gossip and presumes too much about her employer. His nurse, Liberty, is just as bad and for some reason is rivals with Adeline. Adeline's mother, Mrs. Lewis is sharp tongued and not very pleasant. It's no wonder Adeline can't move on with her battle-axe of a mother staying with her. Mrs. Berwick is nearly as bad but I believe Mrs. Lewis isn't selfish, just protective of her daughter. Mrs. Berwick is selfish and out to protect herself and keeps her son under her thumb. She has a secret that comes out of nowhere and seems rather far-fetched. Colin Knatchbull-Hugessen is a lazy, no-good fool. He's new to Chawton and I don't think he deserves to be there. I'm not a lawyer but I'm pretty sure I would be questioning his arrival in town if I were a certain someone.

I liked the author's writing style, for the most part. A few editorial things bothered me that I hope will be fixed in the final edition. The use of "alright" is my biggest pet peeve. Standard English usage is "all right" - two words. "Alright" one word seems more accepted now but it really doesn't make sense. The other problem I had with this uncorrected edition is the passage of time back and forth within a scene and between characters. I hope the publisher includes some kind of mark to indicate the scene is changing. I enjoyed some of the beautiful phrases and the insights into Jane Austen's novels. I never thought about some of the things discussed and now have more to think about next time I reread.

This book is recommended for true Janeites but probably not to those who only know the movies or GASP don't know Jane at all!

Content warning:
sexual assault - semi-graphic
pre-marital sex - not shown on page but discussed a lot in the inner dialogue
prescription drug abuse

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Emma. Movie Review


c. Focus Features LLC

Screenplay by Eleanor Catton, Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Autumn DeWilde

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Callum Turner, Josh O'Connor

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." In summary, she's bored. The movie opens with the marriage of Emma's governess, Miss Taylor, to Mr. Weston. Emma is convinced because she introduced them, therefore she made the match. She decides to take on a 
protégée and do some more matchmaking. Harriet Smith, a parlor boarder at Miss Goddard's School, is the natural daughter of nobody knows who. While Harriet has feelings for Robert Martin, a farmer, Emma imagines Harriet's father is a nobleman and Harriet can do better than a mere farmer. Enter a slew of suitors with some interesting results. Throw in one bossy neighbor, a talkative spinster, a hypochondriac father and you get an entertaining story with a bit of social commentary thrown in.

promotional bookmark

I had low expectations coming into this so I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it very much but it's not my favorite adaptation. Anya Taylor-Joy was a delight as Emma. Emma is not a likable character and I felt she portrayed that. Mia Goth is acceptable as naive Harriet. Miranda Hart as Miss Bates is decent. She runs on and on well but the script didn't do justice to the real tragedy that is Miss Bates's life. There's no mention of how she was once the vicar's daughter which gave her a high status in the community. She's now an impoverished country spinster dependent upon the generosity of others. She can't go where she wants, when she wants and must wait to be invited. This is only briefly conveyed by her excitement over being invited to tea at Hartfield. Tanya Reynolds as Mrs. Elton was appropriately awful but again she was downplayed in the script. Her personality was more conveyed through her clothes and hairstyle. The women were mostly pretty good. 

The men, however, were mostly lacking. Josh O'Connor (Larry Durrell) as Mr. Elton is perfect! He was funny, smarmy and an foppish. 

Josh O'Connor as Mr. Elton c. Focus Features LLC

 Mr. Knightley and Frank Churchill were terribly miscast. Since when is Mr. Knightley an emotional dandy? Those shirt points were way too high for a country gentleman who actually oversees management of his estate, walks across fields, etc. The actor was wooden and didn't have any chemistry with his leading lady.  Mr. Knightley was just awful. He's some weird, emo dude falling on the floor in angst filled fits and running around like a maniac. His chemistry with Emma is next to none and he has lost his playful sense of humor. I didn't find him very attractive. Johnny Lee Miller is my Mr. Knightley of choice!

Frank Churchill cut got down in size to a minor character. Frank's blunder and the letters game were left out entirelyI was disappointed they cut out the parts where Jane Fairfax is upset by Frank and Emma's flirting and how she was going to sell herself in the governess trade. Cutting that out ruined Frank Churchill's plot and Emma's growth.

Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley c. Focus Features LLC

Mr. Woodehouse, hypochondriac, is very spritely for an invalid! Standing straight, jumping down stairs, going to weddings-that's not Jane Austen's Mr. Woodhouse. I love Bill Nighy but he's not Mr. Woodhouse. The real Mr. Woodhouse is a semi-invalid who fears everything. This Mr. Woodhouse is a contradiction. He fears drafts but it able to jump up at a moment's notice. It's very weird. I rather prefer Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse in in the 2009 TV adaptation.

I also felt they cut too much about Miss Bates, her garrulousness and her poverty. She's very fashionably dressed for an impoverished spinster!

Mia Goth and Anya Taylor-Joy as Harriet and Emma
c. Focus Features LLC

The twist at the end with Harriet was stupid and unrealistic.

Some of the context got lost in translation. 

  • The farmer, Robert Martin, is no mere farm laborer. He's a tenant farmer on his way to gentility. This should be shown by his house and his little gifts to Harriet- going three miles round just to bring her walnuts, selling his wool for more than anybody around, having  parlor and spending the evening in leisure and knowing how to read. He's a good catch for someone like Harriet. 
  • The class thing is also left out of the Weston/Churchill family plot. Mr. Weston is comfortably situated NOW because he's engaged in trade but when his first wife died and Frank was young, he was in the militia and not rich. When I explained this to my dad, he said "Oh ok. So they're middle class?" That needed explanation or else the viewer is left wondering why Frank was adopted.
  •  The same with Miss Bates's poverty. It's barely there.
  • The little subtle social gestures are needed like Mr. Knightley bringing Emma's arm to his heart. (whoo... racy for Jane Austen).  "For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious of having excited any particular interest, till she found her arm drawn within his, and pressed against his heart," (Chp. 49). These subtitles help the reader or viewer understand the time period and characters better. However, the script does quote from the original novel quite a bit so huzzah! (see the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice for how NOT to write a Jane Austen adaptation)

Emma promotional swag 

  • The scenery, the houses, the women's clothes were all EXQUISITE! Emma's pink spencer and some of her other gowns were copies of actual period pieces. 
  • The men's costumes were not so great.

💙 #repost // #Repost @elledecor: While fans of Jane Austen were quick to praise @autumndewilde’s film adaptation of the novel ‘Emma’, they weren’t the only ones swooning over the 19th-century, Georgian era movie. Designers across the globe looked beyond the storyline (and into the backdrop), falling for the stunning production design by Kave Quinn and set decor by Stella Fox. “I’m an obsessive researcher in general, and when I went to drama school, which was a long time ago before I became a photographer, I became pretty obsessed with different periods and how they affect the storytelling,” de Wilde says. At the link in bio, ELLE Decor executive editor @ingridabram talked to de Wilde about the enthusiastic embrace of her gorgeous period comedy and how the world of decor—and her own obsessive attention to detail—was crucial in creating Emma’s irresistible world.
A post shared by Focus Features (@focusfeatures) on

What was especially nice about the costumes is that the underpinnings are correct as well and shown on screen. The same with nightwear. It's nice to see the characters are real flesh and blood people who wear underwear and nightgowns and put their hair in curl rags. Emma's perfection is not that of a carved statue. It takes work.

  • The music was an odd, eclectic mix of period classical music and noisy folk tunes that may be appropriate for a film set in the country but jar with the perfect drawing room setting of the story.
  • On the plus side, the actresses playing Emma and Jane perform their own musical numbers which adds to the authenticity of the story.
promotional denim bag from Emma. and Focus Features LLC.


I did not at all mind Emma bearing her bum by the fire. She was alone and it's taken from a satirical print so it's possible some women did do that. They'd never admit it! Mr. Knightley getting dressed was another scene of partial-nudity and it wasn't much. I liked seeing the way gentlemen got dressed. EVERYONE focuses on women's fashions and the men I've seen at Jane Austen events were either in military dress or their wives dressed them in some semblance of period costume, if they were in costume at all. I've read a lot of Regency romances where the hero's sartorial splendor plays a large role and it was great to see it in real life. I didn't mind the "make-out" scene. That was way more tame than I was expecting. The nose bleed scene was funny and weird.

Overall, I enjoyed this adaptation. I haven't seen the version with Kate Beckinsale for awhile. I'd need to refresh my memory to rank them properly.
See my review of Emma 1996 and Emma 2009.

A big thank you to Focus Features for putting out the film OnDemand early due to the COVID-19 situation. I didn't get to see it before theaters closed. Next time, I don't wait for my mom to have time to join me! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

What to Read in Quarantine? : A Special Post

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby -- Austenesque Historical fiction

Miss Austen
Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

It is impossible to describe this book. While it is largely set in a country village it does not involve 3 or 4 families. There are no rogues, no villains, no real high plot points, just a gentle story about 19th-century spinsters who were devoted to their families in different ways. The story opens in 1840 when Jane Austen's sister Cassandra, now in her 60s and frail, travels on her own, unannounced to visit Isabella Fowle, family friend and niece of Cassandra's late fiance. Isabella's brother, the country clergyman in Kintbury, Berkshire has recently passed away and by church rule Isabella must vacate her home. Feeling lost and unhappy, Isabella doesn't know what to do and is not thrilled to have to entertain this elderly woman on top of everything else. Cassandra has a mission and won't leave until she's accomplished it. Her mission is to ostensibly help Isabella pack and move. She also seeks to convince Isabella that the very best thing for her would me to move in with one or both of her sisters, something the three Fowle women are reluctant to do. It worked out for the best for Cassandra to stay with her mother and devoted little sister Jane. Cassandra's real mission is to search for letters written by her famous sister and destroy any that show Jane in a negative light. Cassandra wants people to remember her sister as always calm and happy, to have had smooth sailing all her life, nothing to ruffle her calmness and creativity.

In 1840 people weren't yet interested in the obscure Jane Austen who had some literary success at the beginning of the century and then died. Only the family is beginning to take an interest in that long ago past and Cassandra can not let them shape the narrative the way they want. Cassandra knows her sister-in-law Mary will make herself out to be a heroine and Jane a villain. If only Cassandra can find those letters. It isn't as easy as she hoped. She's thwarted by the lazy maid Dinah, sister-in-law Mary and niece Caroline as they help with the hustle and bustle of moving. Each night Cassandra reads from Persuasion with Isabella listening for the first time. In this small way Cassandra can keep her sister's memory alive.

The story shifts from 1840 to the past when Cassandra's loved ones are alive. Each letter she reads brings back memories Cassandra had long buried as she faced numerous hardships with a stiff upper lip. Beginning in 1795 when Cassandra was a young woman engaged to her father's former pupil Tom Fowle and ending in 1817 with the event we all know happened and none of us want to have happened, the story shifts back and forth in time sharing Cassandra's story as well as Jane's. Cassandra's past has the power to shape the future if she can recognize what needs to be done.

I enjoyed this different take on Jane Austen's life. It's more about Cassandra and how her life always intertwined with her sister's even after death. It's about the choices women have and must make, duty to family, love romantic or familial, which is more important? What stories do we tell while we are alive? How do we want to be remembered when we die? How do our loved ones remember us or want us to be remembered? This story asks those questions revolving around Jane and Cassandra. Jane's story is well-known, or we think we know her story anyway but in destroying her letters, Cassandra also erased part of her own story and Gill Hornby plausibly brings it back.

As an unmarried woman of a certain age myself, certainly a middle-aged spinster by 19th-century standards, I find myself more drawn to the Miss Bates characters and of course Cassandra and Jane Austen. This story gives us several single women, all of whom make choices that shape their lives. Let me start with Isabella and get to Jane and Cassy later. Isabella is unable to cope without a man. Her father was a bully and made his wife and daughter subservient to him. Isabella spent her whole life catering to him and caring for him in his final illness. She would not have dreamed of going against his wishes. Her story is quite sad and one of the usual themes of this time period. Many authors today like to point out how difficult it was for women, especially single women, without rights, to do what they pleased. Gill Hornby takes a different approach. While Isabella is lost without a man, her two sisters have been able to make their own lives. Elizabeth runs a one-woman daycare center caring for the babies of working women and has found fulfillment that way. Mary-Jane married and traveled, was widowed and returned to Kintbury. She's eccentric to be sure but she seems content with her choices and I admire that.

Cassandra and Jane are a different matter. They found happiness and contentment with each other but it wasn't the easiest path to take or really a matter of choice. This story shows Cassandra's fears about marriage- not the usual ones but her fears of being away from her lively, intellectual family and especially her sister. Tom seemed like he was a simple, uncomplicated young man who never stopped to think about what Cassandra wanted. Her fears seem justified for a MODERN woman on the brink of marriage but in the Georgian period, you married someone you liked well enough and hoped it worked out. As we know, Tom died young and Cassandra was left a grieving widow without having had the pleasure of actually being married. Fiction fills in the blanks.

Gill Hornby imagines a reason why Cassandra never married but I think even if she didn't have that big reason, she wouldn't have left her family, especially Jane. Jane and Cassandra were like two halves of a whole. Their devotion to each other is very sweet and touching but also tinged with sadness. These two bright young women were everything to each other but what history doesn't tell us is why Cassandra felt duty bound to stay with her family and never marry. Aside from Cassandra's secret, Jane has a secret. Jane's secret makes the story more heartbreaking.

Cassandra becomes the dutiful daughter, nurturing aunt and loving sister supporting everyone through the years. Cassandra doesn't come across as saintly though. She has moods based on her feelings. She makes decisions that affect her future and they weigh heavily on her mind. As a woman, she is in a difficult spot. Still, even today, women are expected to be caretakers of their ageing parents and of course in the 19th-century, women didn't have any outlets for their hurt or frustrations. Cassandra CHOOSES her fate and that sets her apart from many other spinsters. Martha Lloyd is the real saint, uncomplainingly moving around with the Austen women and helping to care for her family. She keeps smiling through and I found her goodness a bit hard to take. I like Cassandra better even though she's always annoyed me for coming across as perfect. Jane, with her clever mind and sharp wit appeals to me more.

Mary Austen is the villain of the story. Mary was born a Lloyd, sister to saintly Martha and friend to Jane and Cassandra. She's the Charlotte Collins of Jane's real life. Mary needs to marry and sets her sights of Jane and Cassy's widowed brother James. Mary turns into a different person around him, a person James expects a woman to be. After her marriage, Mary turned into a frenemy. In this novel, she's clearly the prototype for Mary Bennet, Mrs. Elton, Mary Musgrove and the other insufferable female characters. I HIGHLY doubt it was that obvious or people would have noticed! Jane may have taken some of Mary's characteristics but surely she wasn't stupid enough to earn her sister-in-law's hatred that way. Mary Austen is not bright. She doesn't have the cleverness of her Austen in-laws and doesn't seem to have a mind of her own. Mary is truly awful but she isn't really a villain. Perhaps she would have given us a more complete picture of Jane if she had been allowed.

Supporting characters in the present 1840 setting include Dinah, the maid who is a terrible maid but turns out to be a good friend. Personally I would have given her the sack long ago. Isabella doesn't have the inner strength to make Dinah do her job but Isabella is lonely and in need of a confidante so she seems to keep Dinah around for that. I don't know why Isabella didn't feel she could confide in Cassandra except perhaps because Cassandra is an old, old lady. There's also a Mr. Lidderdale, a country doctor who treated Isabella's father. He isn't a man of breeding or fortune but he's good at what he does and has a calming manner. That subplot was painfully obvious. Cassy should have known. Caroline Austen, daughter of Mary and James, apparently doesn't like her Aunt Cassy for whatever reason. Caroline is also a single woman of a certain age who must care for her widowed mother. The two have that in common and should have a bond of sisterhood. Caroline is too much like her mother for Cassandra's liking but she doesn't seem as spiteful.

In the past we get to know Eliza Lloyd Fowle. Like her sister Martha, she is sweet and kind. She endures a pompous, bullying and perhaps physically abusive husband with good grace. The light went out of the household when she died. The Austen parents are portrayed much like the Bennets. Mrs. Austen is constantly complaining about her ill health like Mrs. Bennet and trying to marry off her daughters and their friends. Mr. Austen also tries to pay matchmaker. Cassy and Jane's brothers are lively and fun-loving in their youth. Cassy reflects on the difference between her family's love of literature and intellectual pursuits, their good humor and loving nature with that of the Fowles more somber and less intellectual household. When the Austen men grow up they fall victim to their wives. James always comes across as egotistical and pompous in history and here he's like John Dashwood, letting his wife do all the talking and thinking. Edward isn't much better but Elizabeth is more naive and lacks empathy than the cruel Fanny Dashwood. Frank and Charles are mostly mentioned and George is left out of the narrative, not living with the Austens.

Also in the past we meet that mysterious gentleman from the seaside whom Jane supposedly fell in love with. Cassy has no memory of telling this story to Caroline and what she remembers differs greatly from the family narrative. I had never thought of THAT but it surely seems plausible, even possible! This storyline was tough to read though, knowing that real life is not the same as a novel.

My only major quibbles with this novel are that it is difficult to tell who is writing Jane or Cassandra. Their voices sound too much alike. My other, major complaint, is that I don't think the Austen sisters would have revealed private information about the other to a mutual friend. Because we don't have existing letters or diaries to go on, Gill Hornby needed some way to tell the story and she chose letters to a friend rather than family.

I really enjoyed this thoughtful novelization of Cassandra Austen's life and how it was so intertwined with her sister's. I highly recommend this to Janeites new and old.

4.75 stars/out of 5
and almost as many hankies! 5 hankies for July 1817! I silently cried out "NO!" as if I could somehow change the past. It's such a tragedy that such genius died so young- the same age I am now, nearly exactly. It seems extra unfair if she died of something that can easily be treated or cured today.

This is such a choppy review. I can't do justice to this book in a review. I found someone who can though, for a better, more in-depth analysis see Austen in Autumn