Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dearest Cousin Jane by Jill Pitkeathley

4.5 Star

Countess Eliza de Feuillide is a renowned flirt and basks in her glamorous lifestyle. Rumoured to be the product of a love affair between her mother and Warren Hastings of the East India Company, Eliza lives life to the fullest, even when tragedy strikes. Her flamboyant and passionate spirit is brought to the quiet and simple English countryside where she influences her much younger cousin, Jane Austen, through visits and correspondence. 

Lydia - 4 Star

I enjoyed Dearest Cousin Jane once I had a grasp on the multiple characters from whose point of view this book is told and with not knowing much about Jane Austen, I liked finding out bits about her life through this chick lit-ish historical fiction.

There was a lot of history in this Dearest Cousin Jane with it being based on Eliza’s point of view from her travels to and from India and her life in France leading up to The French Revolution. Eliza loved the fine things in life from Parisian court to galas to the theatre and I thought the story being told from her perspective was an interesting take on Jane Austen’s life, seeing the potential influence her older and outrageously flirtier cousin had on her.  Not having been all that familiar with Jane Austen’s story, I enjoyed learning about her life, especially as seen from her family’s perspective. 

I found the details of Eliza’s flamboyant lifestyle and that of Jane’s less colourful life were portrayed so well I could picture both vividly. This combined with the historical details such as various health aspects of life at that time - which I found fascinating - led to a colourful novel about Jane Austen’s life. I found it interesting to learn how her stories evolved and the struggle of female authors at the time.  I found this novel well researched, filled with details and it didn’t leave me with any nagging questions.

If you’re looking for something with a historical perspective, pick up Dearest Cousin Jane today.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I wasn’t a big fan of Jane Austen when I was forced to read her novels in school- I think it was because I couldn’t get my head around the language quickly enough to be pulled into the story. But I’m pleased to say that I seem to have grown past this problem apparently and really enjoyed Dearest Cousin Jane!

Jane Austen wrote novels about women during her own era but I don’t think that her stories are much different from what we now call chick lit.  Jill Pitkeathley has taken what is known about Jane Austen and made her come alive to us by opening up her relationships with her female (and male) relatives.  She has woven a story about Jane through letters and diary like entries from her cousins, brothers and parents and ended up with a fascinating read. 

I learnt quite a lot from this novel, not just some history and information about social tendencies from the era, but it was also a reminder of women’s relationships and the strength that this brings to all families.  We could probably all use a little reminder now and then about the importance of helping each other so I found inspiration in reading this one.

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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