Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dearest Cousin Jane-Jill Pitkeathley

Dearest Cousin Jane
Jill Pitkeathley
Harper, Mar 23 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061875984

In 1787, Jane’s mother expresses her concurs to her husband Mr. Austen about the behavior of his niece Countess Eliza de Feuillde whom she calls Betsy as she did before the aristocratic marriage. He insists she is just having fun with her flirting with their two sons James and Henry. However, Mrs. Austen complains that her seductive airs send the wrong behavioral message to fifteen years old Cassandra and especially twelve years old Jane who carefully watches her older cousin’s antics.

Eliza Hancock came to Paris in 1780. There she met the Comte and married him. They had a child Hastings whose health is poor and soon after their stay in England with her paternal uncle's family, he dies. Not long after that Eliza’s spouse is guillotined. Even in mourning, Eliza still teases the men especially Jane's brothers; playing them against each other while Jane watches in fascination and her mom disapproves.

By using a young Jane’s real cousin who had an apparent scandalous reputation, Jill Pitkeathley provides a fresh look at the influences on the author before Miss Austen became the novelist. For fans of biographical fiction and of course anyone who wants more Austen in their diet, Dearest Cousin Jane is a super repast as this is an enjoyable invigorating look at the extended family through the impact of the notorious cousin.

Harriet Klausner

No comments: