Jill Pitkeathley’s CASSANDRA AND JANE (Harper; Trade Paperback Original; On Sale September 9, 2008; $13.95), a
debut novel that is sure to satisfy fans of all things Jane Austen. This story is a fictional account of the relationship between Jane Austen and her beloved older sister Cassandra, her constant confidant and supporter. Based on known facts about the two sisters, as well as the author’s imagined details of their letters and lives, this novel offers an inspired insight into the relationship between the two, allowing us to get closer to the spirit of one of England ’s finest novelists.

It is suspected – and often lamented – that many of the letters which Jane Austen wrote to her family and friends were deliberately destroyed by Cassandra after Jane’s death, thereby erasing the historical record of their close relationship. Thus, many of Jane’s most intimate and often controversial comments on her family, friends, lovers and enemies, as well as the established social customs of the 18th and early 19th centuries were erased from the public’s eye.
CASSANDRA AND JANE skillfully blends fact and fiction into an authentic and revealing novel about Jane Austen, as seen through the eyes of the one who knew her best, Cassandra. Both sisters were at one time engaged to be married, but after the death of Cassandra’s fiancé, and Jane’s change of mind about her suitor, the two women spent their lives with their mother. They suffered from a lack of income and were forced to be dependent on their relatives, which was a common fate for single women with meager social status during that era. These circumstances inspired much of her famous fiction, and Pitkeathley illuminates Jane’s independent spirit and progressive, intelligent mind for the added benefit of the legions of Jane Austen fans looking to speculate about her innermost thoughts.

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