When I decided to join the Jane in June event I knew right away I wanted to review http://bookrat-misty.blogspot.com/2010/06/sense-and-sensibility-movie-review-from.html>Sense and Sensibility. When I opened my well worn copy of Penguin’s Complete Novels of Jane Austen I noticed the story Lady Susan. I realized I had never read it so I decided to review it as well.
Lady Susan is an interesting story, it is told completely in the form of letters, with a conclusion by an undisclosed Author. We are first introduced to Susan Vernon in a rather cordial letter she writes to her brother regarding her upcoming visit. She talks of looking forward to meeting his wife and her nieces and nephews, a match she at one time tried to prevent! Her letter to another player in this tale Alicia Johnson though, reveals a different side of her personality.
In all her Novels, Austen captures the many social machinations of the men and woman of her age. Susan Vernon portrays all the darkest elements of social climbing. This is partnered with a vicious and determined streak. Recently widowed Susan has been enjoying the Manwaring family. Her sudden decision to visit her brother is in lieu of the uproar she has caused in this family. She has engaged in two dangerous flirtations one with the head of the household, the married head of the household. In addition she has turned the affections of Sir James Martin away from the Manwaring family’s youngest daughter to benefit her own daughter Frederica.
While at her brother’s home she seems the epitome of politeness. The addition of Mrs. Vernon’s brother Reginald inspires Susan to engage in a Spite filled play for his affections.
The format of this story is aunique form that Austen uses very well. Each letter adds a sense of urgency and tension that leads to a satisfying climax. Susan is a daunting character. In a time where women were very dependant on men and even their reputation, Susan moves through the world with little care of what others think of her. Her finances sound due to her recently deceased husband she seeks only to meet her own desires caring little for her own daughter except for her insistence that Frederica marry James Martin. Her skills are admirable despite the trail of destruction she leaves behind her. She is also quite the “cougar” of her generation!
I’m impressed at how Austen sheds light on this darker side of English society. It was a very interesting read, quite different from her other Novels.