Thursday, August 4, 2011
Lady Susan, 35/100
I needed something fun after reading two novellas in a row narrated by sad, dying people.
Jane Austen's Lady Susan covers themes familiar to those who've read her novels: marriage, class, social mores and manners. But this time the heroine is an anti-heroine. A wicked woman and master of words who uses her charm to get what she wants. And what she wants is to find a husband for herself and for her daughter -- by any means necessary.
This was a really fun read. Austen is a master of language, and forms the personalities of the characters perfectly just by what they say and write. The novella is done is an epistolary format, which is perfect for this story. The reader sees how the voice of a character changes depending on who they're addressing. The entire time we get to see the true, horrid personality of Lady Susan through her letters to a friend, while the other characters can only guess. A deception that will echo itself in the character of Wickham later on.
The novella was written in Austen's late teens, making it one of her earliest attempts at writing. However, it wasn't published until 1871, around 50 years after her death. The novella format gets no respect, no respect at all.
You can buy Lady Susan from Melville House, or read it for free at Project Gutenberg.