Lady Susan by Jane Austen: Book Review

You may already know that I am a die-hard Jane AUsten fan, so you cam imagine my surprise whe I discovered a book by her that I hadn’t read. I recommend you read the book because its very entertaining with a sharper wit than Austen’s other novels except from Northanger Abbey.

Lady Susan is a relatively less well known novel written by Jane Austen,possibly written in 1794 but not published until 1871. The author did submit the completed work for publication in her lifetime. The novel comprises almost entirely of letters between various characters. (Sense and Sensibility was orignally written in epistolary form as well).

The protagonist Lady Susan is like no heroine in 19th century English Literature, in fact, she is unlike any Austen heroine. Lady Susan is beautiful, intelligent, charming and witty as all heroines must be, but she lacks a moral compass, is ‘old’ has a sixteen year old daughter to boot, and is new widow. 

Lady Susan’s attempts to find a suitor for her daughter against her wishes and her own flirtations, affairs  with  a younger man and attempts to snare a suitable partner for herself are rather scandalous for the time. No wonder Jane Austen did not submit the novel for publication, I don’t believe 19th century England was ready for cougars in fiction even if they did exist in reality.

The book has happy ending, although I wished the end would have been a bit more drawn out, Lady Susan is given a sort of happy ending not a moral one, unlike Mansfield Park where Jane Austen punished those morally unsound.

All in all, its a good read, I liked the fact you could almost ‘hear’ each character as  you read their letters. The insights into the behaviour of men and women in their various roles as sister, mother, daughter and friend are so easy to relate to despite the passage of time. The physical decriptions and personality traits of different characters were cleverly included in the correspondence so that you could form a picture in your head, without it being an obvious description as written in a normal novel. You got the delicious feeling of overhearing gossip during a train ride when two friends (usually women) discuss mutual friends, none of whom you know, but by the end you feel as if you know them all quite well.

I will end as usual with some of my favourite quotes, hope they convince you to read the book:

“I cannot easily resolve on anything so serious as marriage, especially as I am not at present in want of money.”
Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson
“I have never yet found that the advice of a sister could prevent a young man’s being in love if he chose it.
Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson (as she tries to draw in Mrs. Vernon’s brother — it’s all very complicated!)

“Where there is a disposition to dislike, a motive will never be wanting.”
Lady Susan, letter 5, Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson