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My Dear Charlotte: With the Assistance of Jane Austen's Letters Paperback – Jun 29 2009

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 34 reviews
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
So well done you will forget it isn't the Austen sisters you are reading about. Oct. 20 2009
By J. Lesley - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading the description of this book made me interested in reading it. Once I actually held the book in my hands and could see how it was constructed made me even more interested in reading it. I have such admiration for Hazel Holt after finishing this very unusual novel she has written. What an imagination she has, what an innovative approach to the world Jane Austen would have lived in.

First, there should be no mistake on the part of anyone investigating this book. This is not a book about Jane Austen. Instead, this is a book of fiction where portions of letters written by Jane Austen have been inserted into letters written by our letter writer, Elinor Cowper (pronounced Cooper)to her elder sister Charlotte Cowper. The additions from the Austen letters are not notated in any way so it is possible to read this entire book without being certain which portions come directly from Jane Austen. I have never read the Austen letters, but I believe I could spot some of the insertions - in some cases because they did not fit the ongoing narrative completely smoothly.

The book is made up of letters written by Elinor to her sister Charlotte who is, naturally, away from home for the entire length of the novel. They begin as descriptions of everyday common occurrences regarding family, domestic subjects, and friends and acquaintances in the neighborhood in and around Lyme. As time passes there is a death in one of the homes nearby and this turns into a mysterious happening which becomes the focus of all those within the community.

Even though the two sisters are called by different names, the similarities to the life and novels of Jane Austen are strongly represented in this novel. After a while I actually began to see these two women as Jane and Cassandra, even though I knew better. The writing style is very, very well done to remind the reader of the Austen books but the author was able to have Elinor act in ways Jane Austen did not. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Even though it moved slightly slowly to begin with because of establishing the settings and characters, by the time I was halfway through the book I was constantly telling myself that I had time to read just one more letter, then just one more letter again, and then again. There are no chapter breaks in the book, instead you will simply progress from one letter on to the next letter. As a mystery this particular vehicle of the novel written in letters did not allow for quite as much investigation as I would have liked, but it is a satisfactory mystery none the less.

I highly recommend this book to all lovers of the world and life of Jane Austen. I also think it is important to read the Introduction written by Jan Fergus because she explains the insertion of various portions of the Austen letters. Now I'm ready to find and read the Jane Austen letters. I've always known that I should read the letters, this book has made me anxious to read them.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic! Sept. 21 2009
By Paul B. - Published on
Format: Paperback
My Dear Charlotte is not just another Jane Austen sequel. First of all, it is based on the actual letters that Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. The letters in My Dear Charlotte quote Austens letters, using them as the foundation for th eplot. What this means is that the novel is a genuine Regency romance. The details about houses, balls, dresses, etc. are not made up but are historically genuine, and many of the perceptions and descriptions are those of Jane Austen herself. Second, it's a murder mystery! The novel really works. It's unique--you won't find another book like it anywhere. I love books like this--the author has truly done something new and important.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Unique and enjoyable! March 30 2010
By A reader - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It seems as if there has been quite a bit of Jane Austen-related and Jane Austen-inspired writing out there of late, but this clever epistolary novel is really a stand-out. The author has cleverly interspersed bits and pieces from the real correspondence of Jane Austen into this novel of letters from one sister (Elinor) to another (Charlotte) who is away visiting family. One certainly does not have to have read any of Miss Austen's letters to be able to enjoy this book but it is fun to try to pick out the bits put in by Hazel Holt. And I did find the insertions to fit in pretty seamlessly so as not to appear out of place or as an interruption to the narrative.

There is a good amount of Regency period detail included in the letters as well, but it is included conversationally and does not weigh the story down unnecessarily. There are tidbits about fashion, food, manners, literature of the day, etc so anyone with an interest in that time period would probably enjoy this work as well.

The plot itself is a bit of a murder mystery. A prominent lady in the Lyme social circle dies somewhat unexpectedly in spite of being a bit of a hypochondriac. Several characters are introduced who could have a motive for wanting her removed so the local justice of the peace is called upon by the deceased's brother to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death. The developments in the case are described to Charlotte by Elinor along with the details of everyday life during the Regency.

I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Jane Austen, her letters, the Regency, and/or mysteries. It may also inspire those who haven't read her letters to do so.

I also found the painting of the two sisters used for the cover to be a lovely and fitting addition to this very cool book. Happy reading!
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Tedious minutiae overwhelms any story April 14 2012
By MamaSylvia - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. A much-disliked woman dies unexpectedly and her physician brother suspects foul play.

Set in the Regency England of Jane Austen, the story is told completely in letters from a young woman living in Lyme to her sister Charlotte, who is visiting Bath. Unfortunately, Holt simply does not share Austen's genius at making the minutiae of the sisters' lives not only intriguing but relevant to the story. The first quarter of the book is tedious lead-in and it didn't become any more interesting after the woman's death. I quit a third of the way through the book. Kindle formatting was fine and there were minimal spelling/grammar errors.

I was puzzled as to why there were so many positive reviews of this uninteresting book. It looks like most of the glowing reviews referred to the difficulty of incorporating actual letters of Jane Austen into newly-written material, and I will readily concede that it would have been quite a challenge, technically. But that still doesn't make it readable; these were letters that Austen did NOT intend to be part of a book. Austen herself wrote one book as a series of letters, Lady Susan, which held my attention even though the narrator is thoroughly unlikable. But Austen focused on the storyline in Lady Susan, as Holt did not in this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Thank you Amazon! Jan. 4 2013
By Shirley - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would like to have this book on my Kindle HD. When I discovered that I was not able obtain it for my Kindle, I contacted Amazon. Some research has indicated that other books by the same author and from the same publisher are available for the Kindle, and therefore it appears that possibly there is a human error in the entry of this particular book into Amazon's Kindle system. Amazon is looking into what the difficulty is, with the intent of fixing it.

Even though I'm not able to read this book on my Kindle, from what I've read from other reviews for this and other books by Ms. Holt, I'm sure this will be a good read, and will certainly deserve more than one star.

Furthermore, in my opinion, Amazon's corporate policy on helping their customers deserves 5 stars...ergo, that's what I'm giving here!

UPDATE: Whatever the glitch was, it is gone and I now have this book on my Kindle Fire HD!!