With all the spin-offs of Jane Austen’s classic novels, in particular the countless ‘Pride and Prejudice” sequels, it’s hard to weed out the fascinating Jane Austen tributes from the unoriginal adaptations. The new book ‘Dear Sister Jane” by Jill Pitkeathley thankfully happens to be the former. Pitkeathley somehow manages to deliver a brilliantly unique tale, perhaps because she took a different approach when dealing with Austen.

While the majority of authors chose to continue on with the tale of Elizabeth Darcy and Jane Bingley, Pikeathley opted to tell the story of the woman behind the novels and the people in her life who inspired her to write such creative, entertaining and enduring works of literature.

In ‘Dearest Cousin Jane,” Pikeathley gives the reader the very exciting opportunity to get better acquainted with the personal aspirations of Jane Austen.

Choosing to tell the story from the viewpoint of five family members who had a great influence on her life, the author focuses mainly on Eliza Austen. Eliza was one of Jane’s cousins, but she was also, supposedly, the young woman whom Jane was most inspired by.

Many character sketches and plot lines that would be used in Austen’s works were born from the adventures which took place during her cousin’s lifetime.
Eliza led an exciting life as she was first married to a French count and was in France when the French Revolution occurred.

Taking Jane’s older brother Henry as her second husband, Eliza retired to England but never ceased her animated ways or love for literature and excitement.

Eliza was extremely supportive of her cousin’s hopes to become a published author and she often encouraged Jane to read aloud her writings to the family.

Although there are other influential people in Jane’s life such as her sister Cassandra, whom Pikeathley focuses on she mainly tells the story of Jane through the depiction of Eliza’s life.

As the reader learns about Eliza, they gradually come to an understanding about the world in which Jane Austen lived and the events that occurred in her lifetime that encouraged her to write.

Through Eliza, the reader is allowed an insight into the most intimate parts of Jane’s life including her hopes, dreams and romantic aspirations alongside the lowered social status of her immense family.

Jane’s story becomes more credible because it is Eliza who is revealing the details of her cousin’s life as opposed to Jane speaking about herself.

‘Dearest Cousin Jane” tells the story about the tribulations and dreams of two cousins who are both merely searching for a little happiness and a whole lot of success.

While Jane struggles to be acknowledged as a writer, Eliza attempts to find peace and happiness within a marriage that requires her to remain in one place. This makes for an incredibly adventurous childhood. The two young women come together so perfectly because they understand one another and are not afraid to speak their minds.

Pikeathley delivers a unique version of Jane Austen’s life and an intriguing explanation as to why she was so determined to turn writing into her permanent career, as well as why she never got married. Instead of being hung up on the stories Jane Austen wrote, Pikeathley decided to shed some light on what made Jane Austen such a brilliant author.

‘Dearest Cousin Jane” is a fictional biography of Jane Austen’s life as well as the life of her family. The novel is both fascinating and an original break from the usual Austen mania, which has always centered around her characters, as opposed to herself.

Pikeathley provided an opportunity for Austen fans to become more acquainted with the woman behind the enchanting and romantic novels that have been adored for generations. That is what makes ‘Dearest Cousin Jane” such an inspirational story to discover.

Leonard is a member of the class of 2013.

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