Thursday, September 13, 2012
Dearest Cousin Jane by Jill Pitkeathley
This is not a prequel or a sequel rather a delightful filling out of historical facts with great panache.
Jane Austen’s Cousin rumored to be the result of an affair between her Mother, Philadelphia Austen Hancock and the great Warren Hastings of the East India Company who shortly before her fathers death set’s her up with a small fortune which gives her the opportunity to live a hedonistic life.
Her Father’s last wishes are that she is educated in France, where she is part of the lavish court of Marie Antoinette attending balls at Versailles.
She Marries Jean Capot Coute de Feuillide and adores the cachet of her title.
But for all her headstrong ways and love of luxury she has been written as a very sympathetic character.
Loving her mother very much and choosing to keep her handicapped and ailing child with her unlike with Jane Austens own brother George who is also mentally handicapped but kept in care away from the family.
Eliza also is very fond of her Uncle George, Janes, Father.
Our heart goes out to her when in fairly quick succession she looses her Mother to breasts cancer and her Husband to the guillotine and their estates along with him.
She struggles on with her ailing Son, eventually marrying Janes, Brother some ten years her junior.
She is an inspiration to Jane, she lifts her spirits and encourages her writing, of course not everyone in the family loves her as she is so vivacious and flirtatious that she ruffles the feathers of quite a few of the ladies in the Austen family.
She loses her Son at 15 and succumbs to breast cancer herself at 50.
This is a well researched and very engaging book, I know that Jill Pitkeathley, like myself has suffered from cancer and we can only thank our lucky stars to have been born in a time when it is possible to treat it rather than have to go through it with no treatment available.
I sometimes found that the fact that each chapter is in a different voice a little difficult to follow, but, it was worth the effort.
A wonderfully good read.