To read The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen is to meet the illustrious Miss Austen before she has become a published author. Our narrator Miss Sharp, a lowly governess, comes into the acquaintance of Miss Austen through her employer (Jane’s brother), and their acquaintance soon turns into a friendship. As Miss Sharp recounts all of her various interactions with Miss Austen and her family, she slowly begins to unravel the secrets and infidelities within the Austen family. From overheard conversations and personal interactions, she picks up and tries to piece together any clues that could help her understand whether or not Jane was murdered — and if so, by whom.
And there you have it.
I did not love it.
The writing was just not sharp or particularly amazing. I didn’t love the character development — no one stood out as someone I was eager to read about; even our narrator felt mostly nosy and she honestly made me uncomfortable sometimes. I guess this could be a spoiler, but you figure it out in the first chapter: the crux of it is that Miss Sharp is completely infatuated with Jane. In love with her, in lust with her, however you want to say it. And so her deep desires to get at the root of what happened to Jane just fell flat for me, felt very forced. Sometimes I just did not want to be in her head, frankly, and yet other times I did feel sympathetic for her plight. It know it would be hard to be a lesbian in a time period where there was absolutely no way to live that lifestyle without either being so rich you can get away with anything or being a complete outcast.
What did I like? The time period. A few of the minor characters were intriguing. I like the idea of it and the actual mystery itself was good, I think; I just didn’t like the story, if it is possible to like one and not the other.
Rated: Mild for scenes of same-sex attraction and a same-sex love interest