the mysterious death of miss jane ausent

THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MISS JANE AUSTEN begins twenty-six years after her death.  Anne Sharp, Jane’s friend and former governess to her niece Fanny, begins writing a memoir regarding her tenure in the Austen’s employ and her meeting and friendship with Jane.  Anne, with hindsight, is endeavoring to discover the who and the why behind Jane’s death.  A death Anne no longer believes was natural but is indeed murder.

In THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MISS JANE AUSTEN we meet and see the Austen’s through the eyes of Anne Sharp.  Ms.Sharp was governess to Fanny, Edward and Elizabeth Austen’s eldest daughter.  Anne lived with the family at Godmersham and the close proximity gives her “account” an intimate feel.  I confess my curiosity has definitely been piqued.  I’m most interested to discover exactly what is factual and what is extrapolation, especially regarding Henry and his sisters-in-law.  Once Miss Sharp left the Austen’s employ she stayed in touch with Anne and others via letters and occasional visits even after Jane’s death.

This brings us to the mystery portion which is revealed with memories.  Miss. Sharp’s happenstance reading, years later, of an article in the paper makes her question Jane’s death as natural.  That foul play could be a definite possibility is confirmed with a new scientific test MissSharp has done on the lock of Jane’s hair sent to her by Jane’s sister, Cassandra.  MissSharp begins a memoir, writing down her memories of events and discreetly questioning others to get theirs.  Using these memories she “solves” the who and why mystery of Jane’s death.

When I read a while back that Ms.Austen’s death might not have been due to natural circumstances I was surprised.  Some time later I saw THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MISS JANE AUSTEN and there was no way I could not read it.  I don’t claim to be a Janeite or an historical scholar.  I’m just someone who has enjoyed Ms.Austen’s books and some of the pastiches though nothing to do with zombies or sea monsters, I simply can’t go there.

The “insider’s look” at the Austen family was revealing while some mystery was still retained.  They appear to be as disparate and dysfunctionally functional as any family then or now.  There was an aspect that, if historically accurate, felt belabored to me to the point that it detracted from the story.  A mention or two would have been sufficient.  If it wasn’t historically accurate I have to wonder at its inclusion and what point it served.  Hindsight examination of the mystery allows us to play detective along side MissSharp.  Will you reach the same conclusion she does or see the evidence differently?  I admit to being surprised at the way some of the characters lives played out, especially as I had no real prior knowledge of them.  I was especially disappointed in Fanny and most surprised about Anna and Henry.

With the one exception I very much enjoyed THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MISS JANE AUSTEN.  If you’re a fan of the Regency era or Jane Austen you should at least give the book a go.  You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

3.75 stars

Do y’all like historicals that use real people like this?