Gill Hornby is moving from Little, Brown to Century for her next novel, Miss Austen, about the relationship between Jane and Cassandra Austen.
Publisher Selina Walker acquired world English rights from Caroline Wood at Felicity Bryan Associates to publish Miss Austen in hardcover in early 2020.
Set in 1840, the novel focuses on Cassandra Austen and her search for a cache of letters by Jane that Cassandra knows must be found and destroyed. "As she reads the letters, Cassandra remembers the pasts she and Jane shared, and the secrets between them that Cassandra decides must now be protected at any cost," the synopsis reads.
Walker said she knew she wanted to acquire the "original" and "emotionally complex" novel as soon as she read the opening pages. The book not only delves into the siblings' relationship but posits a reason for why, late in life, Cassandra burned masses of her sister's letters.
Walker commented: "The novel suggests an answer to the question that has always troubled academics as to why, towards the end of her life, Cassandra burned so many of Jane’s letters, and it also explores Jane and Cassandra’s deep and lasting relationship as Jane began to write her novels. This is a wonderfully original, emotionally complex ‘reading-group’ novel; integral to it too is Gill Hornby’s feel for the history of the period which just seeps through the book’s pores, and utterly transports the reader to a time when to be an unmarried woman was to be intensely vulnerable. It’s a book that has touched me deeply and I hope will touch all of its future readers too."
Hornby is the author of The Hive and All Together Now, both published by Little, Brown. She also published The Story of Jane Austen, about Austen’s life, with Short Books.
Hornby said: "I have long been fascinated by the figure of Cassandra Austen, lurking quietly in Jane’s shadow. With her sharp intelligence and good looks, her romance that turned into tragedy, her long, unmarried life spent in devotion to her family and extraordinarily close relationship with her sister, she could be a Jane Austen heroine. Cassandra’s love and support were crucial to Jane Austen’s development as a novelist; her later years were dedicated to the fierce protection of her legacy.
"Jane fully appreciated all that Cassandra did for her, and so, too, should we. After so many years spent wondering, it has been such a pleasure to write a novel about this Miss Austen. I am thrilled that it will be published by Cornerstone, and that Selina and her team share my passion for her story."