A wonderfully original, emotionally complex novel that delves into why Cassandra burned a treasure trove of letters written by her sister, Jane Austen – an act of destruction that has troubled academics for centuries.
1840: twenty three years after the death of her famous sister Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury, and the home of her family’s friends, the Fowles.
She knows that, in some dusty corner of the sprawling vicarage, there is a cache of family letters which hold secrets she is desperate should not be revealed.
As Cassandra recalls her youth and her relationship with her brilliant yet complex sister, she pieces together buried truths about Jane’s history, and her own. And she faces a stark choice: should she act to protect Jane’s reputation? Or leave the contents of the letters to go unguarded into posterity …
Based on a literary mystery that has long puzzled biographers and academics, Miss Austen is a wonderfully original and emotionally complex novel about the loves and lives of Cassandra and Jane Austen.
‘The perfect book to wrap yourself around on a dark night’ STYLIST
‘The great joy of Miss Austen is that the reader feels immersed in a world that is convincingly Jane’s from the first page. Miss Austen is a novel of great kindness, often unexpectedly moving, with much to say about the status of “invisible” older women. Above all, it’s concerned with the triumph of small acts of goodness; you can’t help feeling that Jane would have approved.’ OBSERVER
‘Without romanticising its period setting or underplaying the precariousness of any woman’s position in this society, it celebrates unexamined lives, sisterhood and virtues such as kindness and loyalty’ SUNDAY TIMES
‘This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts.’
KAREN JOY FOWLER, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub
‘Hornby is at her best describing the complex bonds between the “excellent women” of her story. She describes the horrors, but also the pleasures, of spinsterhood’ THE TIMES
‘It won’t surprise me if this is one of the books of the year, it’s a delight, one of those that you don’t want to end.’ RTE
‘A charming novel… capturing the spirit of the brilliant sardonic Jane, and reminding the reader of how brutal life was for women in Austen’s era, it’s an ingenious and affecting embroidery on the fact of the author’s life.’ SUNDAY MIRROR
‘Fans of Pride and Prejudice and Emma will enjoy this touching story[…] In her meticulously researched third novel, Gill Hornby skillfully imagines the correspondence between the sisters.’ SUNDAY EXPRESS
‘Miss Austen is an ingenious imaginary explanationof how so many of Jane’s letters came to be destroyed… With flashbacks and wonderful domestic detail, Hornby brings to life the Austen family, using the known to speculate on what might have been.’ THE TIMES Audio Book of the Week
‘Extraordinary and heart-wrenching, Miss Austen transported me from page one. A remarkable novel that is wholly original, deeply moving, and emotionally complex. A gift to all Austen lovers.’
LARA PRESCOTT, author of The Secrets We Kept
‘Gill Hornby ingeniously imagines what Cassandra Austen’s own life might have been like, both before and after Jane’s untimely death, casting a different light on the familiar biographical picture without in any way distorting it.’ DEIRDRE LE FAYE, editor of Jane Austen’s Letters
‘Miss Austen is affecting, thought-provoking, and makes you think about both Jane and Cassandra Austen in a new light.’ HELENA KELLY, author of Jane Austen, The Secret Radical
‘A pitch perfect novel, fond and atmospheric. It reads as if Gill was born to write Cassandra’s story, and she brings her whole witty and sympathetic self to the task.’ KIRSTY WARK
‘Tender and touching … Hornby deftly describes the psychological toll that such uncertainly took on Jane, and movingly celebrates the fortitude of Cassandra whose greatest love was her sister’ DAILY MAIL
‘A moving, often funny novel. Richly imagined and spryly told, it reinstates overlooked Cassandra as the most important person in Jane’s life’ MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘Utterly absorbing. The lives of the Austen sisters are recreated with a brilliant sureness of touch that can only be achieved by deep study of the period.’ ARTEMIS COOPER
‘A wonderfully original, emotionally complex novel that delves into why Cassandra burned a treasure trove of letters written by her sister, Jane Austen’ IRISH EXAMINER
‘In this subtle and delicate novel, Gill Hornby has created a clever, warm-hearted character in Cassandra, Jane Austen’s sister’ WOMAN & HOME
‘People are going to love it, but I wonder if any screen adaptation will be able to convey the hidden treasure within this thoughtful story.’ LITERARY REVIEW
‘Perfectly evokes the mid-19th century and a woman looking back on the joys and disappointments of her life’ RED
‘Engrossing … the warm relationship between the sisters is particularly well written.’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
‘Miss Austen is both complicit in and a sly comment on our obsession with the novelist’s life and contested mental state, and it burns, too, with sympathy for the women forced to carve out different sorts of lives at a time when marriage was considered the only index of their worth.’ METRO
‘This complex story reveals a clever and warm-hearted character in Cassandra, and brings us closer to one of the greatest of all English writers.’ WOMEN’S WEEKLY