When Samantha McDonough’s boyfriend had a conference in London, she jumped on the chance to go with him to England. She looked forward to spending some time in Oxford, where once she had worked on a dissertation on Jane Austen’s works. An impulse purchase leaves her in possession of a Jane Austen letter, never before seen. The letter references a missing manuscript, a full Jane Austen novel lost before any of her books had been published. Samantha cannot resist mystery or the challenge to look for the lost book. However, to succeed she needs to get Anthony Whitaker, current owner of the manuscripts, to help.
Rebecca Stanhope, heroine of the lost manuscript, loves her small village and her life as the clergyman’s daughter. When her father leaves his post in disgrace, Rebecca must learn to cope with change and the wider world. She and her father struggle with their lack of finances and limited options while living with the family members they can. Her journey introduces her to friendship, betrayal, and love. The tale parallels Jane Austen’s life in some respects, offering glimpses of the author amidst the story.
With The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, Syrie James presents a book within the book, as the reader follows Samantha’s tale in the modern world as well as the tale of Rebecca Stanhope, heroine of the lost manuscript. The story of Rebecca quickly overshadows Samantha’s tale, drawing the reader into the familiar world of Jane Austen’s England. Attempting to write a tale mimicking Austen’s style is a daunting task, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ms. James pulled it off. A couple times I found myself tossed out of the illusion that I was reading an Austen novel by an anachronism. Those moments, few in nature, did not detract too much from my overall enjoyment of the tale.
Ms. James provides an entertaining tale, actually two entertaining tales. I found myself a little disappointed that the endings to both heroines’ tales were easy to predict. I also had trouble with Samantha’s two romance interests, as I did not feel any great interest in either of them. They lacked depth compared to the characters portrayed in the Rebecca story line. Lastly, I struggled with the Samantha’s actions, they often felt like they lacked motivation. However, Ms. James’ ability to create an Austen-like novelette transcends the difficulty in the other story line.
I recommend this book for those who love Jane Austen novels. The book serves as a wonderful tribute to both Austen’s novels and the readers who love them.
Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin USA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.