Miss Austen opens in 1840 with Cassandra Austen, now in her late 60s, making a journey to the village of Kintbury with the apparent purpose of paying her respects to Isabella Fowle, who had just lost her father. But in fact, Cassandra’s real purpose is to destroy the letters that were exchanged between her sister Jane and Isabella’s mother, a dear friend of the family.
The destruction of the mentioned letters is the driver of the narrative, but it was not the fulcral point that captured my attention in this book. The letters that Cassandra discovers and reads so many years after they were originally written, and the memories they entice, are the captivating part of the book, because through them, Cassandra will revisit the most important moments of her life, transporting the reader into a past where the entire Austen family is presented to the reader at their best and their worst moments.
Jane Austen is obviously an important character in this story, but she is not the only focus of the novel, and even thought I absolutely loved the characterization Mrs Hornby did, which was authentic and intriguing, and the description of Jane’s most important life events, it was the other Miss Austen, who surprised and enchanted me the most. I always thought of Cassandra Austen as a sweet Jane Bennet, but in this book Cassandra Austen is depicted in a more profound manner, revealing not only altruism and kindness, but also intelligence, will of power and astuteness.
This book is not filled with action, nor is it an exciting page turner, and even if I would have liked it to be a little more fast paced, I truly appreciated the introspective character of this narrative. In a world such as ours, where everything is fast paced and we are fed through the overwhelming social media with an unrealistic, standardised and unobtainable concept of happiness and success, we don’t spend enough time analysing what happiness means to us. We don’t spend enough time analysing our decisions, or the path we should to take. We don’t even dare to deny the ideal of happiness imposed by society may not be what is best for ourselves. Miss Austen dwelves on all those aspects and through its main character, Cassandra Austen, we realize that it doesn’t matter what society thinks we must do, it doesn’t matter what other people think of us, what truly matters is that we feel happy about our choices, about our life and ourselves, and that we always look at what we have with appreciation. The moral of this book, whose events take place two centuries ago, could not be more pertinent and relevant in today’s society, and that is in my perspective its main achievement.
Miss Austen is an extremely well written book which reveals a thorough research into one of England’s most talented authors, but it is much more than a tribute to the Austen sisters, it is a tale of friendship and love, and a reminder of what is important in life. Despite the era that is depicted in this novel, Miss Austen could not be more pertinent in these troubled times we live in, and I highly recommend it to those looking for a book which questions the hardships, difficulties and expectation of females in society.
Elizabeth Bennet’s Level
Juliet Stevenson doesn’t require introductions, having narrated many of the classics, including Jane Austen’s, as she is one of the most known and best narrators in the market.. In Miss Austen she did not disappoint with another excellent performance. With a dramatic yet delightful interpretation of all characters, she delivered once more a magnificent audiobook.
You can find Miss Austen at:
and on Audible.com
Gill Hornby is the author of the novels The Hive and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography for young readers. A devoted Janeite, she lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.