For Love of Jane | Fiction, Jan. 2020

For Austen fans and those seeking excellent English historical fiction; a must-purchase for libraries of all sizes

redstar Hornby, Gill. Miss Austen. Flatiron: Macmillan. Apr. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781250252203. $26.99. F
The well-known friendship and bonds of loyalty between Jane Austen and her older sister Cassandra are celebrated and explored in this novel by Hornby (All Together Now). Beyond her fierce devotion to Jane and the loss of her fiancé Tom Fowle, who had been her father’s curate, little is known of Cassandra’s life. We begin with Cassandra in her 60s, having dedicated herself to preserving her sister’s reputation, two decades after Jane’s death. Cassandra visits the home of the Fowle family of Kintbury—Tom’s family. The house is being cleared for a new vicar, so Cassandra is determined to retrieve old letters between herself and Jane and their friend Eliza Lloyd Fowle. She must work around the distressed last daughter of the household, who’s now charged with clearing it, and her watchful maid. Cassandra had expected to settle here with Tom once they were married, so between her memories of happier times and the rereading of many letters, she recalls the most poignant events of her life.
VERDICT For readers who enjoy Austen’s novels and wish to know more about her life and for those seeking excellent English historical fiction.—Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA

redstar Jenner, Natalie. The Jane Austen Society. St. Martin’s. May 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781250248732. $26.99. F
DEBUT This is the story of people caring for and about one another in the small village of Chawton, Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived her final years and produced her finest novels. In the years following World War II, five engaging village characters live in loneliness caused by devastating loss of family members, career, and expectations of lifestyle. Jenner tells of the village doctor who lost his wife, the schoolteacher who lost her childhood sweetheart husband, the last member of the family from the village’s big house, a local farmhand, and an Austen-loving Hollywood star, five people who coalesce around the cause of preserving the artifacts of their famous and favorite author in their village. Jenner takes up Austen’s tradition as described by the doctor, creating “a world so a part of our own, yet so separate, that entering it is like some kind of tonic....”
VERDICT Readers who enjoy character-driven novels will want to read this book. Like Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it’s a must-purchase for libraries of all sizes.—Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA

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