"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

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Summary: A woman juggles lovers and houses and her reputation. 

I hate stories written as letters (epistolary form) almost as much as I love Jane Austen. Lady Susan is her first novel and I am dying for other Austen lovers to read this so I can discuss it with people.

Is Lady Susan misunderstood? The victim of a vicious rumor mill and a simple misunderstanding based on the jealous actions of a jilted socialite? Or is she a scheming, manipulative gold-digger, breaking hearts just because she can? Yes, all of the above. And does she have a female lover or just a close friend who helps her?

Lady Susan visits her dead husband's relatives at Churchill, likely escaping after a scandal at Langford involving Mr Mainwaring. Depending on whose letter you're reading, Lady Susan had a flirtation, friendship or torrid affair with Mr. Mainwaring, which makes Mrs. Mainwaring unhappy, and flirted with Mr James Martin, who was previously courting Mr. Mainwaring's sister. I tend to believe that Lady Susan is up to no good, but she still remains a sympathetic character to me.  Jane Austen can write unpleasant characters quite well, in that no one in her books is all good or all bad. Emma is the perfect example of this, but so is Mr. Collins, from P&P.

Mr. Vernon is the younger brother of her recently deceased husband (four months!) and has never met his wife Catherine. Lady Susan also objected to the marriage of the younger Mr. Vernon to Catherine, but does her best to smooth things over once she is staying with them. They are eventually joined by Catherine's brother Reginald de Courcy, heir to the de Courcy fortune. Despite rumors and warnings about her, Reginald and Lady Susan start spending time together. When Lady Susan's daughter Frederica runs away from school in London, she joins Lady Susan and the Vernons at Churchill. Then things really get complicated.

I appreciate the writing - Jane Austen really is one of the best authors ever -  even as I didn't like Lady Susan as a person. Read it so you and I can discuss!

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