A new novel by Jane Austen? How can that be, when the much-loved English author died almost 200 years ago?
It so happens that Austen left a fragment of a novel, long referred to as Sanditon, that was found by a nephew more than 50 years after her death. First published in 1925, this fragment has now been retitled and completed by writer Julia Barrett. Jane Austen's Charlotte (M. Evans and Co., $21.95, ISBN 087131908X), named for the novel's heroine, is set in a seaside resort town on the coast of Sussex. The new book includes Austen's beginning and picks up where she left off (midway through chapter 12), poking fun at the health seekers who flock to the town and following the amorous adventures of Charlotte. Barrett has two previous Austen novels to her credit: Presumption (1993) was a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, while The Third Sister (1996) told the story of Margaret, the youngest sister in Sense and Sensibility. In this latest effort, as in her earlier work, Barrett displays a knack for capturing Austen's characterization and cadence.