Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James


The minute I saw the letter, I knew it was hers. There was no mistaking it: the salutation, the tiny, precise handwriting, the date, the content itself, all confirmed its ancient status and authorship…

Samantha McDonough cannot believe her eyes--or her luck. Tucked in an uncut page of a two-hundred-year old poetry book is a letter she believes was written by Jane Austen, mentioning with regret a manuscript that "went missing at Greenbriar in Devonshire." Could there really be an undiscovered Jane Austen novel waiting to be found? Could anyone resist the temptation to go looking for it?

Making her way to the beautiful, centuries-old Greenbriar estate, Samantha finds it no easy task to sell its owner, the handsome yet uncompromising Anthony Whitaker, on her wild idea of searching for a lost Austen work--until she mentions its possible million dollar value.

After discovering the unattributed manuscript, Samantha and Anthony are immediately absorbed in the story of Rebecca Stanhope, daughter of a small town rector, who is about to encounter some bittersweet truths about life and love. As they continue to read the newly discovered tale from the past, a new one unfolds in the present--a story that just might change both of their lives forever.

Berkeley Trade | December 31, 2012

My Review

4 Stars

While flipping through an old book of poetry she purchased at a second hand bookshop in London,  Samantha McDonough is surprised to discover hidden within its pages a letter that appears to have been penned by Jane Austen.  Even more surprising is that the contents of the letter point to the existence of an previously unknown Austen manuscript that was lost while the author was on a visit to Greenbriar, a stately manor home in Devonshire.  As a long-time Jane Austen enthusiast, Samantha is excited at the prospect of discovering the lost manuscript and immediately sets out for Greenbriar in the hopes of finding it.  While the owner of Greenbriar, Anthony Whitaker, has doubts about Samantha's quest for the missing manuscript and initially denies her request to look for it, Samantha's assertion about the potential dollar value of the manuscript ultimately encourages him to both allow the search and to help her with it.  Almost immediately upon finding the lost manuscript Samantha and Anthony begin reading it and, before long, they are captivated by the story of Rebecca Stanhope, the daughter of a country rector with little experience of life outside her small village.  As they become further absorbed in Rebecca's story, Samantha finds herself becoming increasingly drawn to Anthony.   As they eagerly read the final pages of Rebecca's story, Samantha wonders how this chapter of her own life will end.   

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is sure to delight any Jane Austen fan. While Samantha's quest for the manuscript and her relationship with Anthony form the foundation of the book, it is the content of the manuscript itself, which takes up the bulk of the narrative, that makes this story come alive.  Syrie James has done a remarkable job of capturing Jane Austen's voice, so much so that one might think they were reading Jane Austen's own words.  It is also obvious that James is thoroughly familiar with Austen's novels, as the inspiration for many of the characters and events in the manuscript can be found within the pages of Austen's books.  Although this novel is two stories rolled into one, both narratives are captivating and both heroines are worth rooting for.  

A delightful novel that you simply won't want to put down, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is a must read for all Jane Austen enthusiasts. 

Note: A copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.