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The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen

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3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  913 Ratings  ·  177 Reviews
When Jane Austen dies at the age of just 41, Anne, governess to her brother, Edward Austen, is devastated and begins to suspect that someone might have wanted her out of the way. Now, 20 years on, she hopes that medical science might have progressed sufficiently to assess the one piece of evidence she has - a tainted lock of Jane's hair. Natural causes or murder? Even 20 y ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Honno
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Petra Eggs
Mar 04, 2014 Petra Eggs rated it did not like it
I read nearly half of this book before I finally gave up and skipped to the predictable ending that had me sucking my teeth. Yes I knew the author would write that, but in view of Austen's known history it was just in the realms of unlikely fantasy.

The writing was very amateurish with many anachronisms which made it, at times, cringe-worthy to read. It didn't help that the whole story was revealed through the governess, in a faux Regency voice (that's what I mean by amateurish). Over the years t
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Laurel
Jane Austen’s personal life is a bit of an enigma. We know a bit about her day-to-day life from her remaining personal correspondence; of which a few snippets allude to her beaux and friends. Readers are often puzzled how a spinster wrote so perceptively about romance and the human heart. One would think that first-hand experience would be a requirement. I have always thought that she had her fair share of romance. We are just not privy to the details. We do, however, know a little about of one ...more
Marci
Oct 19, 2013 Marci rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping this would be a tragic book with humor, affection, wit, drama, and pathos--and it is all that--but it adds a nasty imagining of Jane Austen's family that left me unable to keep reading the book, even though it told its story fairly well. There are anachronisms that were awkward, but the author had done her research well.

The problems were mainly in the author's fictionalizing. (view spoiler)
...more
Lisa
Jan 02, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok
I enjoyed reading and thinking about Jane Austen, her novels, and recalling visiting sites where she had been in Bath and Winchester. But I'd have given this book one star I I weren't such an Austen fan. The writing is amateurish and the author can't leave anything implicit up to the reader to decipher. Instead her narrator is a nosy busy body and her every thought and inference is outlined. Disappointing.
Stacy
Aug 01, 2014 Stacy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. First, I should admit that I don't tend to like fanfiction about Jane Austen. I tend to be selfish in that regard in that as a great admirer of her works, I like to interpret her personality from her actual writings, and that interpretation tends to be pretty set in stone, so I am resistant to movies and book spin offs where other writers interpret her or her works in their own way. This explains a lot of how I went into the book, and for those who don't m ...more
Helen
Nov 14, 2011 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linds
Never quite connected or became engaged with this book. The prose itself isn't bad.
Olga Miret
Oct 18, 2015 Olga Miret rated it really liked it
The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford. Faction and death in the Austen Family Thanks to Honno Welsh Women’s Press for sending me a paperback copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
I do like Jane Austen’s novels. Some more than others (Pride and Prejudice is my favourite at the moment, although there are some that I can’t even remember if and when I read them, so this could change), but I am not an expert on the subject or her number one fan. Still, when I was offere
...more
Meredith (Austenesque Reviews)
Illicit liaisons, illegitimate children, sinister murders, scandalous secrets – things you would never associate with the Austen family, right? Can you imagine the quiet, country family from Hampshire embroiled with secrets of adultery and murder? Could you give any credence to the theory that Jane Austen's death was not from natural causes?

Our protagonist, Anne Sharp, can! Twenty-six years after Jane Austen's death, Anne (former governess to Fanny Knight) sends a lock of Jane's hair to be scie
...more
Marie
Sep 08, 2013 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-to-z-2013
As a huge fan of Jane Austen, I’ll read anything that even mentions her. So when I read the synopsis for this book, it didn’t just catch my attention, it demanded it. I was familiar with the controversy surrounding her untimely death – a majority of the speculation leaning towards natural causes, but with some questioning whether or not something more sinister was the cause. But because her life was so intriguing and her literary works so brilliantly written, the end of her life had never been m ...more
Andie
Apr 13, 2014 Andie rated it it was ok
My friend bought me this book, along with Longbourn (click for review), for my birthday- and I decided to read both during Austen August. She highly recommended this book and I went into it pretty much blind. I have to say, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. The idea is that in the 1950s, a lock of Jane Austen’s hair which was sold at Auction was tested to try and prove her cause of death. They found a large amount of arsenic- more than a body would have in it naturally- leading to the theo ...more
Linda Banche
Aug 10, 2013 Linda Banche rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hidden passions. Greed. Deceit. Murder? Enter the possible dark side of Jane Austen’s life in Lindsay Ashford’s page-turner, THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MISS JANE AUSTEN.

Miss Anne Sharpe, governess to Fanny, daughter of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, narrates a chilling story of appearances and how deceptive they can be. Henry Austen visits his brother Edward’s family much too often, and mostly when Edward is away. Edward’s wife, Elizabeth, spends a great deal of time with Henry. Is there something
...more
Mark Flowers
Dec 20, 2013 Mark Flowers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SLJ review:

ASHFORD, Lindsay. The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen. 432p. Sourcebooks Landmark. 2013. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781402282126. LC 2013010791.

Adult/High School–The title promises a mystery–the murder of Jane Austen, no less–and Ashford does eventually follow through, but the bulk of this wonderful historical novel is given over to a touchingly rendered portrait of Anne Sharp, the onetime governess of Jane’s favorite niece. Anne and Jane develop a friendship, which Anne, at least, hopes
...more
LillyBooks
Apparently this book caused a stir when it was released in the UK because the basis of the plot is that that Jane Austen did not die of natural causes but was instead murdered via arsenic poisoning (not a spoiler, the back cover tells you this). This is actually not a completely baseless theory, as a lock of Austen's hair was tested in 1949, and it contained highly abnormal levels of arsenic. This book is billed as a fictional but based in facts murder mystery to uncover the killer. In basic ter ...more
Meghan Tracy
Nov 24, 2011 Meghan Tracy rated it really liked it
I picked this book up based solely on the fact that I didn’t know anything about the way Jane Austen dies and I’m such a sucker for a good historical fiction. Let me give you the real reason you should pick up it up: you get to walk through Jane Austen’s life with her through the perspective of her best friend. Admittedly, at times it reads more like a regency romance, but it’s never gratuitous and always stops at affection, even if it is unrequited.

The story moves along at a very reasonable cl
...more
Carol
Feb 28, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was a selected read for my book club, and that's the great thing about book clubs: you discover books you might never have chosen on your own. I've never been a great fan of Jane Austen, having been required to read "Pride and Prejudice" in college, but I love the movie adaptations of her books, so I am somewhat familiar with her characters. This book however tells, in fictionalized form, about Jane's life through the eyes of her friend Anne Sharp, a governess who works for Jane's brother E ...more
Suzie Fullmer
I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. I loved the behind the scenes story of Jane and the Austen family. This is fiction based on real people so I'm sure the author took a great deal of creative freedom in her descriptions of the family dynamic. But it was quite scandalous. And I had no idea that Jane Austen died at such a young age under suspicious circumstances. These aspects of the story are what kept me reading.

I did not like that the author felt the need to make the narrator, Anne
...more
Kirk
Feb 23, 2014 Kirk rated it really liked it
Shelves: jane-austen
While not a fan of mysteries(except for Boston's own Spenser for Hire), I enjoyed this one. Having heard the recent BBC 4 Radio adaptation, I knew who did it. That didn't lessen my enjoyment. My two favorite Austen reviews, Laurel-Austenprose and Meredith-Austeneque Reviews, both liked the book too. I loved meeting Jane Austen's nieces Anna Austen(later Lefroy) and Fanny Knight(later Caroline Bingley).
Noninuna
Feb 17, 2014 Noninuna rated it did not like it
I did not like the fact that how the writer mix fact with fiction. Now i'm totally confused about the character of real people in JA's life. Even thought it is universally acknowledge that her life is a bit of a mystery, most fan knows the flow, the important event & etc. Pin pointing to a certain real person as a villain in a fiction, i just don't get it. I thought the book is more of an argument, not a totally fiction. Pure disappointment.
Katie
2.5 stars. Way less mystery than I thought there would be, with a painfully obvious culprit. While the second half moved faster than the draggy first, I was ultimately disappointed. The book has decent writing on its side and a colorful cast of characters, but ultimately it fell flat for me.
Rebekah
Dec 28, 2015 Rebekah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
interesting premise, good writing. long and slow. bonus points for queering C19th literature a bit, but I do think the author could have done more with that theme.
Jenifer
Mar 29, 2014 Jenifer rated it it was ok
I didn't like the authors writing style. Much of it was interesting but not intriguing. Not a great read.
Lacey Persianni
Dec 18, 2013 Lacey Persianni rated it did not like it
couldn't get into this book
Dan
Feb 09, 2017 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Austin fan

I love reading anything dealing with Jane Austin or extensions of her stories. While this was interesting I didn't enjoy the relationship Anne Sharp had with Jane. I was glad it was written with that relationship only in Ms. Sharps mind. I probably would not suggest this book to my friends. I would try another of her books because I did enjoy her writing.
Gail Newman
Miss Sharp became a bit too histrionic in her speculations about what might have happened to Jane for my taste. I suppose that fits with the style of novels from Austen's era but it got a bit tiresome for me.
Jessica
Jan 25, 2017 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. It had me going for a bit, it felt like it was building to something big but then it just withered on the vine into an underwhelming, almost non-ending.
Georgiana 1792
Indignazione

Questo romanzo mi ha lasciata incredula e allibita sin dalle prime pagine.
La narratrice, Miss Anne Sharp fu davvero l'istitutrice dei figli di Edward Austen (in particolare, della giovane Fanny) dal 1804 al 1806. Probabilmente la Ashford è rimasta incuriosita dal protrarsi del rapporto tra la governante e Jane Austen, la sorella dell'ex-datore di lavoro, negli anni, e dalla natura della loro amicizia (a cui ha voluto attribuire anche il valore aggiunto della passione non corrisposta
...more
Anna
May 28, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austenesque
Review originally posted on Diary of an Eccentric

Lindsay Ashford imagines a more sinister explanation for Jane Austen’s sudden demise at the age of 41 in The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen. Told from the point of view of Anne Sharp, former governess to Jane’s niece, Fanny, and a close friend of Jane’s, Ashford deftly weaves together biographical facts and fanciful fiction to tell a story of forbidden love, adultery, greed, and possibly murder.

Anne meets Jane when she visits her brother Edw
...more
Warmisunqu Austen
Jul 09, 2013 Warmisunqu Austen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reseñas

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La autora parte de una hipótesis inquietante e interesante como es, que la muerte de Jane Austen pudo haber sido provocada, es decir, ser un asesinato y no una muerte producto de su enfermedad.

La autora toma como protagonista a Anna Sharp, la institutriz de Fanny Austen, hija de James y Elizabeth Austen; esa situación le permitió conocer de cerca los secretos, mentiras, cualidades y defectos de cada miembro Austen. Las inquietude
...more
Elspeth G. Perkin
The cutting of a single lock of hair after the passing of someone may represent and bring various things to different people. It could be seen as a final sentimental token of a loved one. It could be seen as unusual way to grieve or the most precious procession one is left. It could be a simple comfort knowing tucked away in a drawer is one's final attempt to hold onto the familiarity of a life lost or it could even be placed in jewelry and worn with the intent of always having a dearly departed ...more
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“One day, when Mrs. Austen was reading a page of the script that I had given her, she looked me up and down and said: "Well, Miss Sharp, I knew from the minute I saw you that you had a good brain, and I declare that I was not mistaken." When I begged to know what had led her to this swift assessment of my mental powers, she replied: "Why, I always say, "The bigger the nose, the quicker the brain!" I was not quite sure how to take this strange complement, but I took comfort from the observation that she herself had a very prominent, rather aristocratic nose.” 0 likes
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