Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

I got a Kindle for Christmas, and the first book I downloaded was The Complete Works of Jane Austen. To my surprise, I discovered this short epistolary novel, which I had never heard of before. Lady Susan Vernon was recently widowed and is now seeking a new husband for herself, as well as a match for her uncooperative daughter. Her letters reveal her schemes to achieve the best outcome for herself; while she is manipulative and seemingly without moral underpinnings, you have to admire her way with words and her complex plotting. Admiration is far from the mind of her sister-in-law, Lady Catherine Vernon, who is the author of many of the other letters in the novel. She is onto Lady Susan's schemes (although not in every detail) but seems powerless to do anything but rail against them.

The novel is short and lacks the plot complexities of Austen's other works. But her characteristic humor is in evidence, as is her skill in depicting character and the mores of British society. As a fan of the epistolary form, I enjoyed this new-found treat!

Favorite passage:

My understanding is at length restored, and teaches no less to abhor the artifices which had subdued me than to despise myself for the weakness on which their strength was founded. (Lady Catherine's brother Reginald to Lady Susan, breaking off their courtship)

Mainwaring is more devoted to me than ever; and were we at liberty, I doubt if I could resist even matrimony offered by HIM. This event, if his wife live with you, it may be in your power to hasten. The violence of her feelings, which must wear her out, may be easily kept in irritation. I rely on your friendship for this. (Lady Susan to her friend Mrs. Johnson)

1 comment:

  1. Must be an enjoyable read Lady Susan by Jane Austen. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.