Happy Birthday Jane Austen and Giveaway!
by Jill Pitkeathly
Harper Collins, March 2010
From the back cover: In Dearest Cousin Jane, an enchanting new novel that draws on historical fact, Jill Pitkeathley paints a luminous portrait of the true-life cousin of a literary legend—from her flirtatious younger years to her profound influence on one of the world's most beloved authors.
Free-spirited and seductive—outrageous, precocious, and a well-known flirt—Countess Eliza de Feuillide has an unquenchable thirst for life and a glamorous air that captivates everyone around her. Rumored to have been born of a mad love affair between her mother and the great Warren Hastings of the East India Company, Eliza sees the world as her playground—filled with grand galas, theater, and romance—and she will let nothing hold her down. Even tragedy cannot dim her enthusiasm. Losing her only child at an early age and widowed when her husband—the dashing French count Jean de Feuillide—is claimed by Madame la Guillotine during the dark days of the Reign of Terror, Eliza is determined to remain indomitable, unpredictable, and unfettered. And it is this passionate spirit that she brings to a simple English country parsonage to influence the life, the work, and the world of her unsuspecting cousin . . . a quiet and unassuming young writer named Jane Austen.
Today is Jane Austen's 235th birthday, so one lucky winner will get a copy of Jill Pitkeathly's novel about Jane's cousin Eliza Feuillide Dearest Cousin Jane as well as a copy of Janet Mullany's paranormal novel Jane of the Damned. I have read both novels so I can assert that both are extremely enjoyable for different reasons. Dearest Cousin Jane, although it's ostensibly about Jane's cousin, is really more about the Austen family itself. The book is told from multiple first person point of view including Eliza, Henry Austen her future husband and Jane's brother, James Austen, Jane's older brother, Cassandra, Mr. & Mrs. Austen, Eliza's mother Philadelphia Hancock and Jane's cousin Philadelphia Walters. They all have their own take on Eliza which is fascinating but Eliza remained elusive to me. By the time the book ended, I felt I knew less about her than I did before. Pitkeathly's assertion is that Eliza was the model for certain of Jane's characters, most notably Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park although Jane herself said that her books were not drawn from life. However, reading this book, I could see elements of Mary Musgrove and Fanny Dashwood in Mary Austen, James's second wife, and also hints of Mrs. Bennett in Mrs. Austen.
Here are the rules for the giveaway. Sorry, this is only for Canadian and American readers! The contest runs from today through Monday, December 20th.
1. Leave your name and email in the comments. Email is very important so that I can contact you for your address.
2. If you are not a follower and become one, you get an extra entry
3. If you tweet about the giveaway, you get an extra entry.