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The Watsons/ Sanditon (Unabridged Fiction) (Complete Classics) Audio CD – Audiobook, 28 Jun 2010

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 4 pages
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged edition (28 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9626342811
  • ISBN-13: 978-9626342817
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 12.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,070,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Jane Austen's epistolary novel Lady Susan has never received much attention in comparison to her other six major novels. It is a short piece, only 70 pages in my edition of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Minor Works containing forty-one letters and a conclusion. Scholars estimate that it was written between 1793-4 when the young author was in her late teens and represents her first attempts to write in the epistolary format popular with many authors at that time. In 1805, she transcribed a fair copy of the manuscript but did not pursue publication in her lifetime. The manuscript would remain unpublished until 54 years after her death with its inclusion in the appendix of her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh s biography of his aunt, A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1871.  Lady Susan's greatest fault lies in its comparison to its young sisters. Since few novels can surpass or equal Miss Austen's masterpieces, it should be accepted for what it is a charming melodramatic piece by an author in the making. Not only are we presented with interesting and provocative characters, Austen reveals an early understanding of social machinations, wit, and the exquisite language that would become her trademark. Its greatest challenge appears to be in the limitations of the epistolary format itself where the narrative is revealed through one person's perspective and then the other's reaction and reply not allowing for the energy of direct dialogue or much description of the scene or surroundings. Withstanding its shortcomings, it is still a glistening jewel; smart, funny, and intriguing wicked.     Given the obvious challenges of converting a novel written in letter format into audio recording, I was amazed and delighted at how listening to the novel enhanced my enjoyment. Naxos AudioBooks has pulled together a first rate production presenting a stellar cast supported by beautiful classical music. Casting British stage and screen actress Harriet Walter as the fabulously wicked Lady Susan was brilliant. She offers the appropriate edge and attitude necessary to complement the text. With Walter s, we are never in any doubt of Lady Susan s full capacity to scheme, manipulate and ooze immorality and deception. Unlike many audio recording where one narrator uses many voices to portray each character, this recording offers 7 actors, similar to a stage or radio production with each part cast with a unique actor offering variety and interest. We truly connect to each portrayal of the character as they write their letters, inflect emotion into their train of thought, and personalize the production. The addition of period music by Romberg and Mozart equally enhance the setting.  Running two hours and thirty minutes, this audio recording of Lady Susan actually enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of this often neglected yet highly amusing novella. I recommend it highly. 5 out 5 Regency Stars --Laurel Ann, --This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.

From the Inside Flap

Together, these three works--one novel unpublished in her lifetime and two unfinished fragments--reveal Jane Austen's development as a great artist.

Lady Susan, with its wicked, beautiful, intelligent and energetic heroine, is a sparkling melodrama which takes its tone from the outspoken and robust 18th century. Written later, and probably abandoned after her father's death, The Watsons is a tantalising and highly delightful story whose vitality and optimism centre on the marital prospects of the Watson sisters in a small provincial town. Sanditon, Jane Austen's last fiction, is set in a seaside town and its themes concern the new speculative consumer society and foreshadow the great social upheavals of the Industrial Revolution. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
My dear brother, I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted, of spending some weeks with you at Churchill, and therefore if quite convenient to you and Mrs Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with. Read the first page
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Though Lady Susan is considered part of Jane Austen's "juvenilia," having been written ca. 1805, it was not published till well after Jane Austen's death and is still not counted among her "six novels." In fact, this seventh novel, though not as thoughtful or thought-provoking as the "famous six," is one of her wittiest and most spirited. Written in epistolary style, it is the story of Lady Susan, a beautiful, recent widow with no conscience, a woman who is determined to do exactly what she wants to do, to charm and/or seduce any man who appeals to her, and to secure a proper marriage for her teenage daughter, whom she considers both unintelligent and lacking in charm.

Lady Susan, the character, has no redeeming qualities, other than her single-mindedness, and her problems, entirely self-imposed, show the extremes to which an unprincipled woman will go to ensure her own pleasure and ultimately a more secure, comfortable life. As Lady Susan manipulates men, women, and even her young nieces and nephews, her venality knows no bounds, and when she determines that her daughter Frederica WILL marry Sir James, a man who utterly repulses her, Lady Susan's love of power and her willingness to create whatever "truth" best suits her purpose become obvious.

Austen must have had fun writing this novel which "stars" a character who to appears to be her own opposite. While this novel is not a pure "farce," it is closer to that than anything else Austen ever wrote. Containing humor, the satiric depiction of an aristocratic woman of monstrous egotism, her romantic dalliances and comeuppances, and her ability to land on her feet, no matter what obstacles are thrown in her path, the novel is a light comedy in which the manners and morals of the period are shown in sharp relief--Lady Susan vs.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
With an introduction by Margaret Drabble this collection contains the epistolary novella, Lady Susan and two uncompleted novels. Lady Susan is a complete tale but was never published in Austen's lifetime. Possibly the reason for this is that anyone who has read a lot of epistolary novels will know that the genre most definitely has limitations, and some of the devices used to circumvent these limitations can be rather bizarre. Also this type of novel had started to fall out of fashion, thus possibly deciding Austen to leave it in the drawer as it were. Despite all this though, the story is good. Lady Susan tries all her wiles and machinations to ensnare her a new husband now that she is a widower, also she decides who she wants her daughter to marry. Trying to put on a friendly and nice act doesn't always work when people find out about what she is up to, especially as one of the men she captivates is stil married.

The Watsons is the next story in this book, and is a fifty page or so fragment from an uncompleted novel. Emma Watson alas finds herself restricted in who she can marry, due to a lack of funds and that bugbear, pride. The last story is another fragment of about sixty pages and is called Sanditon. Sanditon is a wannabe seaside resort, it could be big as the developers say - after all it is one mile closer to London than Eastbourne. There are those who want to speculate and make money out of this new seaside resort, as well as the ailing hypochondriacs who want to improve their health. Alas Jane dies before she could finish this, which by what is available to us would have promised to have been a great novel, with lots of comedy, also it would have offered an insight to how such places grew and became the resorts that we still know today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 July 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found these three works fascinating. Lady Susan is a completed novella about Lady Susan Vernon written almost completely in the form of letters. What emerges is a picture of a self-centred, manipulative and unpleasant fashionable impoverished lady. This is Jane Austen at her spikiest as Lady Susan is far worse than Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park or Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice. In fact lady Susan makes those two evil ladies look very tame.

The Watsons is a fragment of a novel whose heroine is Emma Watson - returned from many years living with an aunt who it was hoped would have left her a fortune. Unfortunately the aunt had re-married. Emma is invited to one of the local assemblies and soon attracts the attention of several gentlemen. It is unclear from this 50 page fragment whether Emma would have ended up with Mr Howard - the local clergyman - or with Lord Osbourne - the local landowner. She is unimpressed by the heartthrob Tom Musgrave who seems to attract her sisters.

Sanditon is my favourite of the three because it seems to provide much material for Jane Austen's satirical pen. It is a great pity she was not able to finish it before her untimely death in 1817. Sanditon is a seaside village which the two local landowners - Mr Parker and Lady Denham - are hoping to expand into a fashionable resort. Cheerful optimistic Mr Parker has two hypochondriac sisters and a hypochondriac brother. Mr and Mrs Parker invite Charlotte Heywood to stay with them in return for her parents caring for Mr Parker after a carriage accident. It is clear Charlotte is to be the heroine of the novel but not yet clear who the leading man is going to be when the fragment comes to a close.

The book contains a useful introduction and notes on the text as well as a further reading list.
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