Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

Jane Austen Investigates: The Burglar’s Ball by Julia Golding

Young Jane Austen is back with another mystery full of determination to right the injustices of the world.

It’s 1789. Jane and her older sister, Cassandra, have been invited to return to their old school for a ball. All the excitement of an Austen novel leaps off the pages. There are dresses, jewels and dance lessons to contend with – as well as young men! For Cassandra, this is thrilling news, but Jane can’t think of anything much worse. At least she’ll have her dog, Grandison, for company (much to the dismay of the headmistress, Madame La Tournelle).

Hints of the Austen classic Sense and Sensibility come to light as the girls meet the dance master, Mr. Willoughby, and his musician, Brandon – a young man of African ancestry who has spent time as a slave (already I’m forming opinions about these men based on their names alone!) Jane and Cassandra aren’t the only young ladies visiting for the ball. Marianne and Elinor Warren have recently returned from India where their father works for the East India Trading Company while Lucy Palmer, their poorer cousin, quietly takes everything in. Jane also reunites with Arjun and Deepti, good friends from India who she met during The Abbey Mystery.

When a jewel thief interrupts the happy party, accusations fly. Racist judgements are made and an innocent person is in danger. Jane bravely dares to speak up and searches for the truth. In a time where girls are also considered a “lower species”, she pushes against expectations to show the real value of people no matter what their gender, where they come from, how much money they have or the colour of their skin. Jane looks at every angle and no one is free from scrutiny. She cleverly models how to use clues, history and deduction to dig beneath the facts on the surface to find the truth.

The issues of the late 18th century are examined from a modern perspective. Through her bold, justice-seeking heroine, author Julia Golding sheds light on slavery, the role of the East India Company, the expectations of young women, and ideas of status and wealth. There is so much for young readers to take in, think about and discuss. They will be challenged not only about what was considered “right” at the time, but also about how much that has changed over the past 230 years.

Thank you to Lion Hudson Ltd for this brilliant book!

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.

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