by Jill Pitkeathley
I have mixed feelings about historical novels. One the one hand I usually thoroughly enjoy them but on the other hand, they can manipulate reality, providing us with a false idea of how a person really was.
I enjoyed Cassandra and Jane and realize the book probably wouldn't sell as well if it was about totally made-up sisters - calling it a Jane Austen Novel is what grabbed my attention and I'm sure that worked for other readers as well. There is something about Jane Austen that draws our attention.
Pitkeathley is a great Jane Austen fan and has studied her well. With what little is known about Jane, Pitkeathley has told a captivating story about her and her relationship to her sister, Cassandra. The book is told in Cassandra's voice which allows for personal interpretation of Jane's character, motives and actions; even a sister doesn't totally know everything. If the story had been told in Jane's voice I don't think it would be as acceptable to the reader due to the amount of supposition the author had to employ.
I enjoyed the feeling the book successfully portrayed of the time period. It mentions when Jane was born that Cassandra (3-yr-old) was brought to the family home to see the baby by her village mother. Shortly afterwards, Jane took Cassandra's place in the village family and Cassandra moved home to live with her parents and 4 brothers. I need to do some further research to learn more about this practice. This is the first time I'd heard of such a thing. Another interesting view of the times was when Cassandra was older she discovered that her mother nursed the children herself until they were weaned. A practice that embarrassed Cassandra. I guess the practice was to give the child to a wet nurse?
I look forward to more books by Pitkeathley; her writing is both beautiful and easy to read. This was a lovely book and I highly recommend it.