A wonderfully original, emotionally complex ‘reading-group’ novel that delves into why Cassandra burned a treasure trove of letters written by her sister, Jane Austen – an act of destruction that has troubled academics for centuries. It’s 1840, twenty-three years after the death of her famous sister Jane, and Cassandra Austen – alone and unwed – returns to the vicarage in the village of Kintbury. There, in a dusty corner of the sprawling vicarage, she discovers a treasure trove of family letters – and within them secrets that she feels certain must not be revealed. She resolves to burn the letters, even those written by Jane herself. But why destroy so much of her sister’s legacy? As Cassandra casts an eye back on her youth and the life of her brilliant yet complex sister, she pieces together long-buried truths from both her and Jane’s pasts, and knows she must make a terrible choice: let the contents of the letters colour Jane’s memory for ever – or protect her reputation no matter the cost.
‘Gill Hornby ingeniously imagines what Cassandra Austen’s own life might have been like, both before and after Jane’s untimely death, casting a different light on the familiar biographical picture without in any way distorting it.’ DEIRDRE LE FAYE, editor of Jane Austen’s Letters ‘Miss Austen is affecting, thought-provoking, and makes you think about both Jane and Cassandra Austen in a new light.’ HELENA KELLY, author of Jane Austen, The Secret Radical