10 August 2011

Book Review: Lady Susan by Jane Austen

I love an espistolary novel so when Teresa pointed out that Lady Susan is an epistolary novella, I moved it right to the top of my list. Often I am disappointed because the letters included in such works of fiction have way too much quoted speech or dialog in them. To the point where there is little credibility in the epistolary nature of the work. One day I would love to find a work of epistolary fiction that reads like the correspondence in 84, Charing Cross Road. If anyone knows of a such a work let me know.

Austen does much better with the form than most authors. It isn't until about half way through that she starts to use much quoted conversation. Perhaps she got lazy. I don't think she needed to invent conversation to keep the narrative moving along. I liked the fragmentary nature of the letters back and forth. This is one form where I think it is good if not everything is crystal clear. I might try my hand one day at an epistolary something. Although not being a talented fiction writer I am at a distinct disadvantage. Then again maybe I should just read volumes of letters for the effect I appreciate. In my libarary I have unread volumes of correspondence to and from Gustav Mahler, Virgil Thompson, Stephen Spender, Edith Sitwell, May Sarton, the Mitford Sisters, GB Shaw, and others. And I loved my undergraduate History paper which used much from the five volume set of the letters of Sir Edward Elgar.

But I digress. Lady Susan is a conniving bitch and unlike other reviewers I don't think she is deserving of any sympathy. She is the definition of selfish and deserves whatever lumps come her way.

The Verdict: A total pleasure.




  1. I love epistolary novels, too, and I'd almost rather read a collection of letters than a biography.

    I don't think you're alone in seeing Lady Susan as a bitch. She's definitely selfish, but she wasn't the only one. I think my liking her mostly had to do with my thinking that some of the other characters were just as awful (and not nearly as clever), but no one was condemning them. That bugged me and made me want to defend Lady Susan, even when she didn't deserve it.

  2. LOVED this book. Lady Susan is by far one of JA's most evil creations -- she's right up there with Lady Catherine, Fanny Dashwood, and Aunt Norris.

  3. I totally agree... will get my review up later today.

  4. Epistolary novels are my favorite, and I loved the malevolent Lady Susan! She was such a fun villain.

  5. Teresa: Well sure her friends are just as appalling as she is.

    Karen: True.

    JoAnn: Look forward to reading it.

    Lola: Sometimes I find myself rooting for the villain. But not this time.

  6. I normally don't like epistolary novels, but this one really worked. And what can I say--it is Jane Austen after all. I loved it!


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