Lady Susan (Naxos Audio) Audio CD – Audiobook, 30 Sep 2001
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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 The manuscript would remain unpublished until 54 years after her death with its inclusion in the appendix of her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh s biography of his aunt, A Memoir of Jane Austen in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, Austenprose.wordpress.com
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
A short, largely epistolary novel it tells the tale of the swashbuckling Lady Susan, recent widow, who is intent on stringing along a married man she has captivated, whilst marrying her unfortunate daughter to a Baronet (not of her daughter’s choosing) whilst also pursuing another man herself.
This is a novel deriving from the altogether racier Eighteenth Century rather than the moralistic Victorian era. Lady Susan is therefore allowed to be an outrageous, scheming and delightful villain without necessarily coming to a bad end.
All the Austen qualities are there; it’s sly, beautifully written and very funny.
Jane Austen plays the game of deception with us too. In this novella, which is almost entirely in epistolary form, we form the impression from reading Lady Susan’s first letter, that she is a grieving widow, devoted to the care and education of her 16 year old daughter, and willing at last to accede to her brother-in-law’s pressing invitation to stay with him and his family. Wrong! We too have been duped, as we soon discover.
Jane Austen first drafted several of her novels in epistolary form, that is to say, in the form of letters exchanged by her characters. This one, which may have been the earliest of all her surviving works, alone remained in this form. And great fun it is, although Lady Susan’s contriving and heartlessness, especially in regard to her daughter, sometimes goes beyond the comic to the cruel.
Naxos has added to the fun that this “entertainement” can provide by issuing the novella in audio book form. Seven actors are allocated the parts of the seven letter writers. Furthermore, there is no abridgement of the text, and there are some snatches of music that serve to provide breaks between the letters and indicate the passing of time. Altogether, an ideal production.
So, for anyone who isn't familiar with this book - it is an early Austen and, I think, a surprisingly good one. It takes the form of letters sent from the various characters to each other in which they discuss each other, outline their plots, justify their actions and either deceive, alarm or inform each other of what's happening. With a clear picture of each character in my head, it was easy to follow who was saying what to whom and why and what the outcome would be.
Basically the plot is, as outline above, driven by Lady Susan herself who is devious, manipulative, devastating, and entirely justified in taking control of her own destiny - but not that of her brow-beaten daughter, Frederica. Lady Susan and her best friend, Alicia Johnson plot to marry Frederica to a very silly young man, who happens to be in possession of a great fortune and a title. Meanwhile Lady Susan repairs the damage to her reputation by some very judicious behaviour and manages to make the hero, Roderick De Courcy fall in love with her.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love Jane Austen. I have her six novels and have read them often but I suspect she never wanted this published as it was published posthumously. Read morePublished 23 days ago by Sarah
An amusing read with twists and turns to the story and characters, all delivered in the form of letters sent and received.Published 1 month ago by Miss Marple
A portrait of a women able to pull the wool over the eyes of those around her with ease and no consciencePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Not quite what one expects from Jane Austen as this is a book in the form of letters. I read it before seeing the film, which helped rather. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bookaholic