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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Feeding the beast

The appetite for Jane Austen-adjacent content never seems to flag, at least in the Anglophiliac precincts of PBS.

If you ate up Season Two of Sanditon and can’t wait until the airing of Season Three, you have yet more to look forward to: Last week, the network announced that Masterpiece is developing a four-hour adaptation of Gill Hornby’s 2020 novel Miss Austen, with a script by Scottish screenwriter Andrea Gibb.

The book centers on the elder Austen sister, Cassandra, offering an explanation for her mysterious – and, among Janeites, much-lamented – decision to burn most of Jane’s letters before her own death. (Unlike the 2007 biopic Miss Austen Regrets, which also aired on PBS, Hornby's Miss Austen is clearly fictional, although it makes use of the established facts about the Austen sisters' lives.)

Miss Austen was much praised by the famous and well-connected -- its Amazon page features blurbs from such prominent Austen scholars as Claire Tomalin and the late Deirdre Le Faye -- and apparently it did well enough that Hornby has just published another Austen-themed novel, Godmersham Park, this one focused on Anne Sharpe, the governess who became a close friend of Jane Austen.

For me, however, Miss Austen was . . . meh. Bland. Nothing special.

Still, as blog readers know, that will absolutely not prevent me from marking my calendar for the adaptation. It isn’t only at PBS that the appetite for Jane Austen-adjacent content never flags.


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