A New Novel Gives Wings — and a Megaphone — to a Complex Woman

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By Carole V. Bell

By Vanessa Riley

Vanessa Riley was intrigued when she encountered the figure of Miss Lambe in Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel, “Sanditon.” Given the dearth of people of color in 18th- and 19th-century British literature, she wanted to know where the wealthy colored debutante had come from. Was she a product of a progressive authorial imagination? Or had real-life Miss Lambes merely been excised from popular culture and public memory?

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