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Review: JANE & ME: MY AUSTEN HERITAGE by Caroline Jane Knight

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

ABOUT THE BOOK Caroline Jane Knight shares more than Jane Austen's name and DNA. As a direct descendant of Jane's brother, Edward Knight, Caroline is the last of the Austen Knight family to grow up at Chawton House on the estate where Jane Austen lived and enjoyed the most productive period of her writing career. Caroline explored the same places around Chawton House and its grounds as Jane did, dined at the same table in the same dining room, read in the same library and shared the same dream of independence.

Caroline's early life was filled with the delights of living in a sixteenth-century English manor, the good cheer of family gatherings and centuries-old Christmas traditions in the Great Hall of Chawton House, the beauty of a country life, and the joys of helping her Granny bake cakes and serve Jane Austen devotees in the Chawton House tearoom. But when she was seventeen, Caroline and her family were forced to leave the home her family had lived in for centuries. Heartbroken, but determined to leave all things Austen behind her, Caroline eventually carved out a highly successful career in business.

This is the story of Caroline's tumultuous journey to success, her ultimate crisis, her rediscovery and embrace of her Austen heritage, and the creation of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.

REVIEW "I have spent most of my adult life trying to forget Chawton and avoiding all reminders of my heritage..."

And that is the opening line of Jane Austen’s 5th great niece, Caroline Jane Knight's memoir, Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage. I, an unabashed Janeite, was instantly hooked. What could have happened to make this blood relation of Jane Austen's (one of the greatest authors ever) want to reject her entire heritage? Over the next 250-some pages, Knight takes us on her personal journey from when her family forfeited their ancestral home to her present day successes...all the while weaving her great aunt Jane and Chawton House into stories from two-hundred years ago with her own yesterdays and tomorrows. I loved peeking in all the windows and nosing about the cupboards through such an intimate and masterfully written point of view.

Regardless if you have been fortunate enough to make the pilgrimage to Chawton to see Jane Austen's house (the Cottage) and the Great House or if visiting where Jane Austen walked remains on your bucket list, this book is a must-buy for your collection.

Gates to the Walled Garden at Chawton House. Photo from my visit in May 2017.


"For more than twenty years, I chose not to tell my colleagues and friends that I am Jane Austen's fifth great niece and the last of the Austen family to grow up in Chawton House, in the south of England, on the ancestral estate where Jane herself lived and wrote." Caroline Jane Knight is now the founder and chair of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation and runs her own business, The Greyfriar Group. Caroline now lives in a leafy village on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, dogs and chickens.

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