The Beautifull Cassandra. Jane Austen.


When I was nine, my family moved from Kildare to Cork and I hated it. I did hesitate there, to use the word hate, but that is the right word. I went to sleep at night, crying angry tears and chanting “I HATE Cork”, into my pillow.
During the summer holidays, probably to get a break from my furious countenance, my mother would send me off to stay with my Kildare cousins. I didn’t think about it then but I can see now that my uncle and his wife had created something very rare and special. A happy home. It was their gift to me, to take me in and let me muck along with their gang for a fortnight.
It was the early 1980s. There were no theme parks, adventure centres or softplay centres. We spent hours strolling along the back roads picking blackberries.  Spilling back into to the kitchen with purple fingers and lips we would pay a tithe of our haul towards my aunt’s jam-making.The rest we would mash with sugar and cream in Tupperware cups and eat in the shade of our blanket fort.
It rained plenty (Ireland in August, remember). If we were stuck inside, we were allowed play in the good sitting-room. This was a vast room, intended for parties, where we would re-arrange the furniture to accommodate our theatre. We wrote, directed and starred in a fantastic array of comedy sketches and musical interludes. My cousins were genuinely funny children but the wonderful thing for me was that my cousins seemed to think that I was absolutely hilarious. I could make my cousins laugh and that, in turn, made me funny. We invented ridiculous characters and led them through implausible plots but, my God, how we laughed. We snorted our Ribena and drank our tears. Our audience of two would sit on the sofa applauding while we stood, maybe all five of us, on the coffee table and sang our finale.
All of this is what came flooding back to me while I read this sweet little collection of Jane Austen’s first stories. The characters are even more silly than my own childhood inventions and the plots leave ‘far-fetched’ for dust. However, this very small book was like those two weeks in Kildare; pure and innocent, harmless, good fun.