Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Review: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Get it here.
I am a big Jane Austen fan, but have never read this novella for some reason - perhaps I have always regarded it as a piece of juvenilia. It is fair to consider this an immature work, compared with her later novels, but an immature Jane Austen is still worth ten ordinary novelists at the height of their powers.
The 'Lady Susan' of the title is that rarest of creatures in Jane Austen: a completely evil character, whose only redeeming feature is that she is so funny. Elizabeth Bennet could have written this book, before she realised that there are two sides to every story. Also, she seems to have thought that marrying for the greater good of the family was perfectly acceptable, an attitude I have always noted in her later books as well. Hollywood prefers her romances to be all about the heart, but I suspect that Jane's readers took as much satisfaction in the neat financial arrangements, as in the couple being a willing match. Then again, I suppose Hollywood likes its modern heroes to have a healthy degree of financial independence as well, so perhaps nothing has changed.

This audiobook has a big advantage over the original text: it was written as a series of letters, and when I read such a book, I am always having to remind myself who is writing to who. With one voice for each correspondent, however, this recording has real added value, and frees you up to enjoy the story. Great idea!


Kara Shallenberg said...

I'd never read it either, so this audio book was my first Lady Susan experience. I adored it. I recorded Miss Vernon's letter without knowing the story, so I was pleased to find out that she was a sympathetic character ;-)

moya said...

Coincidentally, I read Lady Susan about 3 weeks before the Librivox recording came out and I deliberately chose to listen to it as a sort of experiment contrasting reading and listening. As you say, Chris, it really works as an audio recording because of the different voices. I enjoyed it very much.
I'm off to try her History of England in the short story collections and to see if there are any plans to do her Love and Freindship(sic)or her nephew's memoir(?)

ChrisHughes said...

Kara: I wonder if your reading would have been different if you had guessed that she was a baddie? Kristin was quite scary!

Moya: The 'roles' thing is a fun idea - I am waiting for Romeo and Juliet, to see how a play might work, with dialogue conducted months apart on different continents.

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rohit said...

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.