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Lady Susan by Jane Austen

  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Book title: Lady Susan
  • Category: Literature & Fiction
  • Subcategory: Classics
  • Publisher: SMK Books (June 15, 2009)
  • Pages: 76
  • ISBN: 1604597380
  • ISBN13: 978-1604597387
  • Rating: 4.4
  • Votes: 917
  • Other formats: txt lit mobi mbr

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Lady Susan is a selfish, attractive woman, who tries to trap the best possible husband while maintaining a relationship with a married man. She subverts all the standards of the romantic novel: she has an active role, she's not only beautiful but intelligent and witty, and her suitors are significantly younger than she is. Although the ending includes a traditional reward for morality, Lady Susan herself is treated much more mildly than the adulteress in Mansfield Park, from Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility, who is severely punished.

7 Reviews
The epistolary novel is a very constraining and therefore challenge for the writer. In Jane Austin’s Lady Susan Ms Austen dishes the dirt from the inside as Lady Susan attempts to engage her daughter to a suitor who does not suit and plans a love affair with a married man and a separate advantageous marriage. The letters fly back and forth between her allies, enemies and the occasional more or less innocent third parties. There may be enough plot for a longer story but Ms Austen brings it to a swift end and nails it shut by abandoning the letter only format tying up her loose ends in a few pages of conventional narrative. The tone throughout is one more in line with British stage farce and being short remains fun with just a slight tendency to drag as the joke begins to wear.

In an attempt to give this satire some weight; It made me think of the 100 year older Dangerous Liaisons. The earlier book has a more convoluted plot and a more serious ending, but it is tainted with what reads to modern eyes as close to child abuse and worse. If you wish to indulge in pre-moderrn scandal and the humorous threat of misalliance, Ms Austin is the merrier read and a further benefit in choosing Lady S is its brevity.
Thoroughly enjoyed this novella length story written in an epistolary style although I'm not overly fond of this type of delivery, it does work in this instance. It's only lately that I've looked at the lesser known works of Jane Austen.

Lady Susan, well she is a bit of a "cougar". A middle aged, ("pretty") woman who is devious, delusional, manipulative, vindictive, self serving and arrogant. She has no maternal feelings at all and she enjoys playing the game.......I found her quite delightful, she quite puts Lizzie Eustace from Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds in the pale with her machinations.

Was surprised to find that this is an earlier work and that it's not more well known. More than worth a look at.
I'll join fellow reviewers in warning potential readers that the romance in Lady Susan is minimal. It's the Austen least likely to make you swoon (did I just use the word 'swoon'?! I really have been reading too many classics lately!), but in many ways I think Lady Susan features Jane Austen at her most purely clever, sharp and satirical.

As others have noted, the book takes place entirely in the form of letters that various characters exchange, but rest assured that there's still a lot of Austen's trademark dialogue rather than just summaries of various events. A lot of the humor and cleverness comes from seeing how some of the same people and events are perceived differently by various characters, and how Lady Susan's rosy view of herself differs so radically from the increasingly clear reality of who she is.

This isn't just a series of meandering musings; there's an actual narrative and, for me, a surprisingly satisfying resolution to it. The conflicts and suspense revolve around who (if anyone!) a few of the characters will end up marrying, the fate of Susan's miserable daughter, and which of Lady Susan's schemes to manipulate those around her will succeed.

If you want to fall in love with Austen's more likable, admirable characters and their sigh-worthy romances, this is definitely not the Austen I'd recommend! If, however, you want to read some of the most razor sharp, clever wit and satire that Austen ever wrote, I can't recommend this one highly enough. Plus, the current $0.00 price tag makes this an immensely worthwhile purchase :)
Read it just because the work can be attributed to Austen, my favorite author. I cannot say it is my favorite Austen work but the characters are all unique with the flawed personalities that make them feel more real. The flawed and very human protagonists are part of why I enjoy Austen novels so much. I mean, who really likes the perfect but insipid heroine and flawless hero? Well some people might but I do not. Part of the reason I enjoy Austen so much is because of the depth of her characters and how they change. Lady Susan is definitely a flawed individual. It was an interesting combination of amusement and hate I found myself feeling while reading this work. Her daughter, Frederica, is one of the many victims of her mother and while you might feel sorry for her she is almost a side note in the story. Interestingly enough there were no changes to Lady Susan's perfidious character. She will live on in infamy as one of the most reviled Austen character creations and people will continue to read the work for the sheer amusement at her audacity and thankfulness at their own good fortune to not be in possession of such a mother.
I am so surprised and amused by this novella, as is the second-to-last Austen I have yet to read.

I would have expected this snarky, amusing, overly sexualized (for an Austen character) Lady Susan to be one of the last characters Austen ever wrote and yet I am so surprised to find this was written when she was 19. It feels completely out of her formed universe of personalities and relationships but yet feels complete and oh so refreshing.

Austen can write a villain and give him or her the tone to be not black and white but greyscale. Most of her villains were normal or even high regarded characters that turned out to be evil during the climax of the story, but with Lady Susan we find she wrote an obnoxious scheming woman who was not afraid of hurting people and who was not disguised as her other villains, and from the very beginning and that to me is so refreshing and fun and it makes me yearn of more Austen that could never be written.
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