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My Dear Charlotte: With the assistance of Jane Austen's letters Paperback – July 1, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hazel Holt has many devoted fans in the United States and Great Britain as a writer of "cosy" British mysteries; she has published nineteen Mrs. Malory novels at last count. She is also known to admirers of Barbara Pym as the friend and biographer who additionally edited Pym's posthumous works.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Coffeetown Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603810404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603810401
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,225,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Lesley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading the description of this book made me interested in reading it. Once I actually held the book in my hands and could see how it was constructed made me even more interested in reading it. I have such admiration for Hazel Holt after finishing this very unusual novel she has written. What an imagination she has, what an innovative approach to the world Jane Austen would have lived in.

First, there should be no mistake on the part of anyone investigating this book. This is not a book about Jane Austen. Instead, this is a book of fiction where portions of letters written by Jane Austen have been inserted into letters written by our letter writer, Elinor Cowper (pronounced Cooper)to her elder sister Charlotte Cowper. The additions from the Austen letters are not notated in any way so it is possible to read this entire book without being certain which portions come directly from Jane Austen. I have never read the Austen letters, but I believe I could spot some of the insertions - in some cases because they did not fit the ongoing narrative completely smoothly.

The book is made up of letters written by Elinor to her sister Charlotte who is, naturally, away from home for the entire length of the novel. They begin as descriptions of everyday common occurrences regarding family, domestic subjects, and friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood in and around Lyme. As time passes there is a death in one of the homes nearby and this turns into a mysterious happening which becomes the focus of all those within the community.

Even though the two sisters are called by different names, the similarities to the life and novels of Jane Austen are strongly represented in this novel.
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By Paul B. on September 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
My Dear Charlotte is not just another Jane Austen sequel. First of all, it is based on the actual letters that Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. The letters in My Dear Charlotte quote Austens letters, using them as the foundation for th eplot. What this means is that the novel is a genuine Regency romance. The details about houses, balls, dresses, etc. are not made up but are historically genuine, and many of the perceptions and descriptions are those of Jane Austen herself. Second, it's a murder mystery! The novel really works. It's unique--you won't find another book like it anywhere. I love books like this--the author has truly done something new and important.
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It seems as if there has been quite a bit of Jane Austen-related and Jane Austen-inspired writing out there of late, but this clever epistolary novel is really a stand-out. The author has cleverly interspersed bits and pieces from the real correspondence of Jane Austen into this novel of letters from one sister (Elinor) to another (Charlotte) who is away visiting family. One certainly does not have to have read any of Miss Austen's letters to be able to enjoy this book but it is fun to try to pick out the bits put in by Hazel Holt. And I did find the insertions to fit in pretty seamlessly so as not to appear out of place or as an interruption to the narrative.

There is a good amount of Regency period detail included in the letters as well, but it is included conversationally and does not weigh the story down unnecessarily. There are tidbits about fashion, food, manners, literature of the day, etc so anyone with an interest in that time period would probably enjoy this work as well.

The plot itself is a bit of a murder mystery. A prominent lady in the Lyme social circle dies somewhat unexpectedly in spite of being a bit of a hypochondriac. Several characters are introduced who could have a motive for wanting her removed so the local justice of the peace is called upon by the deceased's brother to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death. The developments in the case are described to Charlotte by Elinor along with the details of everyday life during the Regency.

I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Jane Austen, her letters, the Regency, and/or mysteries. It may also inspire those who haven't read her letters to do so.

I also found the painting of the two sisters used for the cover to be a lovely and fitting addition to this very cool book. Happy reading!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. A much-disliked woman dies unexpectedly and her physician brother suspects foul play.

Set in the Regency England of Jane Austen, the story is told completely in letters from a young woman living in Lyme to her sister Charlotte, who is visiting Bath. Unfortunately, Holt simply does not share Austen's genius at making the minutiae of the sisters' lives not only intriguing but relevant to the story. The first quarter of the book is tedious lead-in and it didn't become any more interesting after the woman's death. I quit a third of the way through the book. Kindle formatting was fine and there were minimal spelling/grammar errors.

I was puzzled as to why there were so many positive reviews of this uninteresting book. It looks like most of the glowing reviews referred to the difficulty of incorporating actual letters of Jane Austen into newly-written material, and I will readily concede that it would have been quite a challenge, technically. But that still doesn't make it readable; these were letters that Austen did NOT intend to be part of a book. Austen herself wrote one book as a series of letters, Lady Susan, which held my attention even though the narrator is thoroughly unlikable. But Austen focused on the storyline in Lady Susan, as Holt did not in this book.
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