Review – Lady Susan

Lady Susan is told through letters, and through those letters, oh does Lady Susan ever get a dousing.

Lady Susan is a woman in need of a place to stay after deciding it was time for her to quit her current residence which of course was some else’s home. She finds herself a place with her in-laws, the Vernons. A recent widow looking for a new husband, she is willing and able to manipulate to get what she wants. She also needs a husband for her daughter, Fredericka, whom she describes as stubborn and unruly and who she talks badly about at every opportunity. She wants to marry off her daughter and be done with her and find herself a handsome, rich man to take care of her without the worry of an unwanted, and uncared for, daughter.

There are essentially seven characters in this book and in some way these people are all related or know each other intimately which makes the barbs being thrown all the more sharp. Yes, Lady Susan deserves every snide remark and sideways evil eye thrown her way but that, for me, is what is so fun about this book. Lady Susan goes around flirting with men, while keeping a married one on the hook, hoping to snag a good one along the way. She’s able to convince people of her virtues, and more than enough people describe her willingly as beautiful and smart. I think all the backbiting and hastily sent letters is wonderful though. Yes, you can say it’s slightly preachy on the morals side but the letters flying between family members is really entertaining.

This was an early unpublished work of Austen’s. I think I may have known that at some point but forgot it. It does have an unfinished feel about it and maybe an unedited feel as well. If you’ve read a lot of Austin, it’s easy to pick up on some of that but it was still good for me. It was included in my The Complete Works of Jane Austen which I’ve had on my Nook forever and love because when I’m feeling the need for Austen, it’s right there.

I have one book left to go and I will have officially read all of Austen’s books. It’s taken me longer than anticipated to complete this little challenge. As the number on the list of not read gets smaller, I get slower and now I’m down to one — Emma. I’ve tried to read Emma before and have never made it all the way through as she’s a character I really find annoying. After Lady Susan, I’m hoping I look at Emma as more the silly matchmaker and not the annoying, coddled child I think of her as. We shall see. We shall see.

Lady Susan from The Complete Works of Jane Austen

By Jane Austen

Douglas Editions

BN ID: 2940000816981

4 stars

Review – Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park from The Complete Works of Jane Austen

By Jane Austen

Douglas Editions

ISBN: 2940000816981

3.5

I knew going in that Mansfield Park was not one of Austen’s most loved works but I had high hopes.  I’d yet to run into a story I didn’t like so why would this one be different?  Oh, what a question to be answered.  I struggled with Mansfield Park.  I never thought of quitting but when the general pattern I’m so happy to find in her books didn’t appear but a group of hateful characters did; it made me wonder what I was reading.  There was no one for me to become attached to.  No love story to speak of.  Scandal, debauchery, and laziness were in abundance though.

Fanny Price is all of 10 years-old when she’s packed off to live with her aunt, Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park.  A timid creature, Fanny does her best to fade into the background.  Having been told since her arrival by her other aunt, Mrs. Norris, she knows she’s not much to look at, nor should she ever be ungrateful for all her aunt and uncle have done for her.  When the Crawford’s, a brother and sister duo of trouble, come to stay at the nearby parsonage, Fanny’s cultivated quiet life changes drastically.

There is a lot of Jane Austen here to like — it’s witty, humorous, there’s sharp dialogue, and societal mockery.  There’s also a boatload of dislikable characters.  For instance, Mrs. Norris.  She’s like the Mrs. Danvers of the Austen universe.  She’s mean, caustic, and cheap.  Oh so cheap.  While she never tries to get Fanny to off herself, she does all she can to make sure Fanny knows she’s no Bertram either and is certainly no help to her self-esteem.  I did find her amusing in a way though especially when she’s lifting things like jam and thread from others for her own personal use.  Lady Bertram is so lazy it’s a wonder she can breathe on her own.  She’s incapable of making any decisions and is forever asking her husband or sons if she likes something.  How can you not know if you like something?  Tom, Maria, and Julia Bertram are so self-centered they didn’t even register with me — even when scandal overtakes them.  Edmund is interesting, being the only one willing to speak his conscience, but he’s also annoying especially when he gets blind-sighted by Miss Crawford.  And now we come to the Crawford’s.  They do add life to the story and their scheming of course makes you love to hate them, but yes, there’s a but.  Because I saw it (I’m not going to tell you what it is.) coming I honestly wanted it to be over knowing good ol’ stout Fanny wouldn’t fall for it.

This has me wondering about another Austen book, Emma.  I never liked that character either and never finished the book.  I’m willing to give it a go but it might be a long minute before I get to it.  Lady Susan is next on my Austen tome list.  I enjoy epistolary novels so my hopes are once again high.

In time, I may go back to this one for a re-read.  I might feel differently about it a second time.