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Cassandra and Jane: A Jane Austen Novel Paperback – September 9, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following Jane Austen's untimely death in 1817 at age 41, her most beloved sister destroyed most of their correspondence; in her first novel, House of Lords peer Pitkeathley attempts to fill in the gaps through the eyes of Cassandra, Jane's closest confidante and sharpest critic. Cassandra tells of the Austen family's precarious position on the lowest tier of Hampshire's aristocracy, Jane's early attempts at scribbling and the crushing romantic disappointments of the two. Throughout, Cassandra's detailed look at her younger sister showcases not only Jane's literary accomplishments and the low spirits, the anger, even the bitterness in her, but also her indefatigable romanticism. Cassandra's voice is perfectly pitched, true to Austen's England, and jam-packed with Austen trivia. Descriptions of known events in the sisters' lives, however, tend toward the didactic, especially compared to Pitkeathley's imaginative leaps regarding the sisters' secrets; as such, the seams between actual and imagined history are entirely too visible. Ardent Austen devotees will be undeterred by the uneven narrative, but casual fans may want to pass. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

While Jane Austen is recognized the world over as one of the greatest storytellers in the English language, in this fictional work, the talent does not extend to her sister. This first novel by Pitkeathley imagines the relationship between the sisters Austen, as told from Cassandra's first-person point of view. Unfortunately, Cassandra is a dullish narrator, wringing her hands and denigrating herself throughout the book. The character may indeed have been an early model for Sense and Sensibility's Elinor Dashwood (as Pitkeathley seems to imply), but she has none of the sparkle, wit, or drollery of Miss Dashwood, instead possessing an abundance of prudery and simpering judgment. From Cassandra, we get only the merest glimpses of the secret side of Jane that her sister claims to know better than any other. Accuracy aside, the novel fails to entertain with the story of Austen's life. Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2004, the book appears to be releasing Stateside to capitalize on the popularity of recent Austen biopics. Recommended for Austen completists.—Amy Watts, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: A Jane Austen Novel (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1st edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061446394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061446399
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,256,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Ever since I read "Just Jane" by Nancy Moser and watched "Becoming Jane" starring Anne Hathaway, I've come to adore Jane Austen's sister Cassandra. There is so little known about her yet her story still fascinates me. The older sister of a well-known author, an amateur artist, a woman who never looked at another man because her one true love died at a young age. So when I discovered "Cassandra and Jane: A Jane Austen Novel," by Jill Pitkeathley, I was eagerly expecting a book about the Austen sisters' unique relationship. No two sisters could be closer (with the exception of my sister and I). I won't outline the story; any Jane Austen nut already knows what it is. And if you don't, you'll just have to read it for yourself.
There is nothing objectionable in the story's content. Sex is referred to as a woman's duty to her husband and whenever the topic is brought up, they characters are vague about it. Faith in God and prayer is held in high esteem; in fact two of the Austen sisters' suitors believe they are called of God to serve Him rather than just viewing the church as a means of making a living. As a Christian who is pretty picky about what she reads, I think that this is a novel that could easily be sold in the Christian market or at a religious bookstore.
However, as an avid Austen-ite, I was disappointed. From the multiple biographies out there about the author, it is believed that the characters Jane Bennet and Elinore Dashwood are loosely based on Cassandra, yet this portrayal of her in no way resembled those characters. She comes across as bland and boring, with no references to her own personal interests or passions.
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Format: Paperback
This is my first fictional take bookwise on any part of Jane Austen's life, though I have seen a couple movie versions. While I'm just a plain and simple Jane Austen fan, and no expert of her life, what I do know I usually don't want people changing to make something more exciting or the like. . . so, in the end. . .

I really liked this book! :)

FIrst and foremost, I like how the author used Cassandra as the narrator, instead of someone else, a third person point of view or different family member. Using Cassandra made it more personal and we got to hear the story directly from the other person that mattered in the relationship between the sisters. We get what I thought was a great look at them. . . they loved each other, knew each other, and understood each other through the good and the darker times. It speculated on the imperfections of Jane, making her more human. In the end, I really liked this author's speculations into the life of Jane and Cassandra and their interactions with each other, while staying within the letter that did survive through history.
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This is an enjoyable but fairly run-of-the-mill fictionalized biography of Jane Austen, told from the point of view of her sister, Cassandra. The author stays pretty true to the known facts of Austen's life--which doesn't necessarily make for an exciting fictional read. If anything is expanded upon here, it's simply some of the family quarrels and Cassandra's jealousy over sharing Jane with others. We learn little, either real or imagined, about Cassandra's own life, aside from her engagement to a young clergyman who died before their wedding, her stints of caring for ailing and about-to-deliver relatives, and her assistance in reading, making copies of, and giving suggestions for Jane's manuscripts in progress. Overall, it was a fast and enjoyable read but might be appreciated more by those who haven't read any deeper biographies of Austen.
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Format: Paperback
"She knew herself that sometimes she overstepped the proper boundries and could only do so safely with me. In later years, when she wrote something particularly scandalous she would urge me, `Take the scissors to this at once.' She was right to surmise that others might judge her comments more harshly, but with me she knew she could be frank and that I understood her turn of mind." Cassandra Austen on her sister Jane, Chapter Two

What is the most tragic and disappointing thing you know about author Jane Austen's life? My immediate choice would be that she died too young and wrote too few novels, and at a close second would be that after her death in 1817, her sister Cassandra destroyed many of her personal letters to protect her privacy. This act of sisterly devotion is greatly lamented by historians, biographers, scholars, and Austen enthusiasts, limiting what information that we do know to her edited letters and family recollections. The complete reason why they were destroyed will always be a mystery, but one can imagine from Austen's surviving letters and novels that her keen sense of social observation and biting irony played a key factor in her sister's decision to remove them forever from family and public scrutiny.

In author Jill Pitkeathley's recently re-issued 2004 novel Cassandra & Jane, we are offered a chance to explore that chasm left by Cassandra Austen's bonfire of humanity as Pitkeathley imagines the back story of two beloved sisters who were the best of friends, honorable confidants and devoted to each other through all the ups and downs of their heartbreaking life in rural 18th-century England.
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