Review: The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford

Description (from cover):

‘Where would I begin to explain it all…?’
Twenty-six years have passed since the death of Jane Austen. Armed with a lock of Austen’s hair as perhaps her best clue, Anne Sharp, former governess to the Austen family and Jane’s close friend, has decided at last to tell her story–a story of family intrigues, shocking secrets, forbidden loves, and maybe even murder…
Upon its publication in the UK, Lindsay Ashford’s fictional interpretation of the few facts surrounding Jane Austen’s mysterious death sparked an international debate and uproar. None of the medical theories offers a satisfactory explanation for Jane Austen’s early demise at the age of forty-one. Could it be that what everyone assumed was a death by natural causes was actually more sinister? Lindsay Ashford’s vivid novel delves deep into Austen’s world and puts forth a shocking suggestion–was someone out to silence her?’

My thoughts:

Jane Austen is simply one of my favorite authors of all times and I simply find the facts about her life to be utterly fascinating. So when I heard that a book that has a mystery surrounding the already strange circumstances of the beloved author’s early demise, I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, this book was most definitely one that I should have skipped as I really didn’t enjoy it. I’m not quite sure if it was the spin on the Austen family and the harsh focus on Henry Austen’s reputation and character. From other books I have read about the Austens, I have come to like Henry Austen and his wife Eliza and didn’t really care for the way Ashford portrayed them in this book. Is it possible that I would prefer fiction over fact and that this story could actually hold some truth? Yes, of course, but I prefer my Austens to be a little less scandalous and more supportive of each other and not harboring a poisoner bent on murder at any costs.
Also, I couldn’t get past the lesbian like love attraction the main character has for Jane. It just simply creeped me out. Sorry, but I can even think of Jane Austen like that. It’s just weird. It might have been possible, but I think that I revere Jane’s character and prefer to think of her as someone who just was unlucky in love and that those experiences shaped her novels into the classics that they are today. I’ve read some reviews where people absolutely adored this book, but it was a little too far-fetched for me to believe and I found it hard to enjoy.
If you enjoy your stories about Jane Austen to be pure, then this book is probably not the best read for you. I had a hard time adjusting to the author’s spin on things and that is what really made me not enjoy this book. Also, the title is very misleading as I thought I was going to get a book with some sort of murder mystery, when in reality it is just basically a fictional memoir with a hint of speculation about murder and poison. Not something that I enjoyed, but one that might appeal to other readers who care more for speculative fiction than I do. I think this is one of those books where either you love it or hate it and that you just have to read it for yourself to see how you will like it.

Overall Rating: 1.5

Title:  The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen
Author:  Lindsay Ashford
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date:  (Reprint) August 6, 2013
Pages:  432
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was selected from the library by myself and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford

  1. I'm glad it's not just me! I really thought it was going to be a murder mystery. I didn't care for how Henry Austen was portrayed either and I didn't like the fictional narrator. Rather than love, it seems she was obsessed with and possessive of Jane.


  2. I liked this one much more than you did. I think it helped that I didn't even know Anne Sharp was a real person until halfway through the book and hadn't read anything about Henry Austen before. As a work of fiction, I found it very interesting. I just with the author had provided more details about what was fact and what was fiction in her author's note.


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