Throwback Thursday: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

ThrowbackThursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago. If you decide to take part, please link back to It’s Book Talk.

This week, a proper throwback! I’m sharing my review of Lady Susan by Jane Austen, a short epistolary novel thought to have been written in 1794 (when Jane Austen would have been 19) but never submitted for publication by the author and only published in 1871, years after her death. It’s a book I read as part of the Classics Club Challenge and my From Page to Screen Challenge, based around books adapted into films.  You can read my comparison of the book and the film, Love and Friendshiphere.

lady-susanAbout the Book

Lady Susan takes the form of letters between Lady Susan Vernon and her friend Mrs Johnson, between Lady Susan’s sister-law, Mrs Vernon, and her mother Lady de Courcy and Mrs Vernon’s brother, Reginald. Lady Susan is beautiful, flirtatious and recently widowed. The letters tell of her attempts to seek an advantageous second marriage for herself and persuade her daughter into a decidedly less attractive match.

My version was a free to download edition from Amazon.

Find Lady Susan on Goodreads


My Review

Although a juvenile work that ends rather abruptly (as if the author tired of writing it), Lady Susan has the trademark wit and ability to skewer social foibles one associates with later Jane Austen novels. Notably, the eponymous heroine is an older woman who is by turns scheming, selfish, unscrupulous and conducting an unsuitable relationship with a married man. Lady Susan has no compunction about freeloading from relatives, telling falsehoods or manipulating others. Not exactly the typical heroine of a romantic novel! However, Austen manages to make the reader admire Lady Susan, if not for her morals, for her independent spirit and sheer determination to live life to the full.

The one aspect of Lady Susan’s character that gives the reader pause for thought is her awful treatment of her daughter, Frederica, whom she describes as “a stupid girl” with “nothing to recommend her”. In fact, Frederica is a rather charming young girl but suffers in Lady Susan’s eyes because of her “artlessness” when it comes to capturing a man. When Frederica resists her mother’s plan for her to marry the brainless Sir James, Lady Susan congratulates herself on her maternal affection in not insisting on the marriage, remarking that she will merely make Frederica “thoroughly uncomfortable till she does accept him”.

Lady Susan has a fitting partner-in-crime in her friend, Mrs Johnson, who advises Lady Susan to pursue Reginald de Courcy on the grounds that his father is “very infirm, and not likely to stand in your way long”. Mrs Johnson herself has the misfortune to be married to a man “just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die.”   Only Mrs Vernon is able to see through Lady Susan’s duplicity: “Her address to me was so gentle, frank, and even affectionate, that, if I had not known how much she has always disliked me for marrying Mr Vernon, and that we had never met before, I should have imagined her an attached friend.”

Lady Susan succeeds in capturing a husband as does Frederica, although one suspects that Frederica will find more happiness in matrimony than her mother.

Although I enjoyed the book, it does end rather abruptly and the limitations of an epistolary novel mean the characters are never fully fleshed out. However, for fans of Jane Austen, it is of interest as an early indicator of her literary potential

In three words: Witty, engaging, sprightly

Try something similar: Emma by Jane Austen

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JaneAustenAbout the Author

Jane Austen is one of the most widely read and historically important novelists in English literature famed for her realism, wit and biting social commentary.

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WWW Wednesdays – 30 August

WWWWednesdays

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too? Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!


Currently reading

AndTheBirdsKeptOnSingingAnd The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author)

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go. Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.  A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And The Birds Kept On Singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could. As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made?

OneDayinDecemberOne Day in December by Shari Low (eARC, courtesy of Aria Fiction)

By the stroke of midnight, a heart would be broken, a cruel truth revealed, a devastating secret shared, and a love betrayed. Four lives would be changed forever, One Day in December.

One morning in December… Caro set off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father had been based on a lifetime of lies. Lila decided today would be the day that she told her lover’s wife of their secret affair. Cammy was on the way to pick up the ring for the surprise proposal to the woman he loved. And Bernadette vowed that this was the day she would walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years and never look back. One day, four lives on a collision course with destiny…

Recently finished

TakeCourageTake Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis (hardcover, own copy)

Anne Brontë is the forgotten Brontë sister, overshadowed by her older siblings – virtuous, successful Charlotte, free-spirited Emily and dissolute Branwell. Tragic, virginal, sweet, stoic, selfless, Anne. The less talented Brontë, the other Brontë. Or that’s what Samantha Ellis, a life-long Emily and Wuthering Heights devotee, had always thought. Until, that is, she started questioning that devotion and, in looking more closely at Emily and Charlotte, found herself confronted by Anne instead. Take Courage is Samantha’s personal, poignant and surprising journey into the life and work of a woman sidelined by history. A brave, strongly feminist writer well ahead of her time – and her more celebrated siblings – and who has much to teach us today about how to find our way in the world.

ADangerousWomanfromNowhereA Dangerous Woman From Nowhere by Kris Radish (eARC)

Briar Logan is a loner who has already survived a wretched childhood, near starvation, and the harsh western frontier in the 1860s. Just when she is on the brink of finally opening her heart to the possibilities of happiness, the love of her life is kidnapped by lawless gold miners – and she steels herself for what could be the greatest loss of her life. Desperate to save her husband and the solitary life they have carved out of the wilderness, Briar is forced to accept the help of a damaged young man and a notorious female horse trainer. Facing whiskey runners, gold thieves, unpredictable elements, and men who will stop at nothing to get what they want, the unlikely trio must forge an uncommon bond in order to survive. Full of lessons of love, letting go, and the real meaning of family, A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere is a timeless western adventure story about courage, change, risk, and learning how to unlock damaged hearts and live in the sweet moments of now

What Cathy (will) Read Next

TheIndigoGirlThe Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd (eARC)

1739 – Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything. Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return—against the laws of the day—she will teach the slaves to read. So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

StrangerStranger by David Bergen (paperback, review copy courtesy of Duckworth)

Íso Perdido, a young Guatemalan woman, works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel, named for the Mayan goddess of creation and destruction. Íso tends to the rich women who visit the clinic for the supposed conception-enhancing properties of the local lake. She is also the lover of Dr. Mann, the American doctor in residence. When an accident forces the doctor to leave Guatemala abruptly, Íso is abandoned, pregnant. After the birth, tended to by the manager of the clinic, the baby disappears. Determined to reclaim her daughter, Íso follows a trail north, eventually crossing illegally into a United States where the rich live in safe zones, walled away from the indigent masses. Traveling without documentation, and with little money, Íso must penetrate this world, and in this place of menace and shifting boundaries, she must determine who she can trust and how much, aware that she might lose her daughter forever.

TheSmallestThingThe Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield (ebook, review copy courtesy of Xpresso Tours)

The very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back. But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit? Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult – and fall in love – in the midst of tragedy.