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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. Catherine Vernon, her sensible sister-in-law; the free-wheeling Lady Susan and those who love the city vs. the moral grounding of those who live in the country; the sexual power of an unprincipled woman vs. the "proper ladies" who, along with their husbands, become her victims.

While this novel is not as "finished" as her more famous novels (the conclusion is weak), it shows Austen as a more playful novelist than in her other novels, an author who is obviously having fun introducing a wild card like Lady Susan into polite society to show how ill-equipped men are to deal with someone so clever. This surprising novel by Austen shows her as a careful observer of society but a polite critic of that society at the same time. Mary Whipple
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on 14 February 2015
Being an early work this isn’t quite as good as the full length novels but is still a great read.
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.
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Our capacity to form first impressions was one that Jane Austen examines in all her fiction. Her characters sometimes are shown to form incorrect impressions. Her characters often strive to give false impressions. None of her fictional characters is as preoccupied with setting up a public image in order to gain her own ends as the Lady Susan who gives this novella its name. Lady Susan is the archetypal coquette, the skilled deceiver. She is Thackeray’s Becky Sharp, fifty years before her time.
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.
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on 20 August 2013
This was in no way like any of Jane's other books and took me by surprise. Firstly as I had nver heard of it and thought I had all of her books (I have been a fan since my O'level days). Secondly as it was written in the form of letters, to make up theis short story. I did however enjoy it.
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2016
I am a self-confessed 'Jane-ite' and regularly re-read the Big Six novels - but I hadn't attempted 'Lady Susan' for some time, having not got on with it before ... and then the film came out. On a rare evening off, I went to the cinema and was enraptured - so I decided to give the novella another go. And I'm very glad I did - the epistolary style isn't for everyone but, if you are able to see the film before reading the book, on this occasion it will really help. I had a mental image of the characters mentioned in the letters between the characters and, as much of the dialogue in the film was taken directly from those letters, the two fused in my imagination and I thoroughly enjoyed reading between the lines of the letters as Austen surely meant us to.
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. She also manages to conduct an intrigue with a married man, aided by Alicia ...
Austen has created a palate of very interesting, human, characters, with their failings and virtues, who are entirely believable. Lady Susan is a strong woman at a time when women were very much second class citizens and I couldn't help cheering her on to her own triumph at the end, while deprecating her cruelty to her daughter, Frederica.
Highly recommended for fans of Austen's works and I highly recommend the film with Kate Beckinsale too!
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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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This volume was an utter delight to read. These are the only works of Jane Austen I have not read and/or reread and I had put off the fateful day because I don't like reading things which aren't finished as a rule. I was desperate for something wonderful to read and decided to chance my arm with this. I'm glad I did. Lady Susan, an epistolary novella, is the only one of the works that was finished. I loved it. I am a fan of the epistolary novel anyway, and I liked the scheming character of Lady Susan very much. The letters are written with verve and liveliness and a very modern sense of pace that make it a delight to read.

The Watsons was my least favourite of the three offerings in the book. I found the characters a bit grating, although you could see their potential had she ever had the chance to develop things further, but it really was too short to become truly engaged in what was happening.

Sanditon is funny, witty and has an array of wonderful characters that reminded me somewhat of Gaskell's Cranford ladies. It is such a shame it never got finished as I know I would have loved it.
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on 7 June 2016
A fun, enjoyable piece of C18th chick-lit, with lots of nicely observed bitchiness; I'm not sure why this isn't part of the regular Jane Austen canon, because it's beautifully written. It took me about ten minutes to get used to the language. I particularly liked the way Austen manages to progress the story without any third person narrator. The epistolary novel may be very dated form, but it seems bang up to date, sharp and contemporary, here. I'm only sorry that she seems to have given up at the end, so that the denouement comes from the perspective of an omniscient third-party narrator. Actually, I'm also sorry that I couldn't work out what was going on with Lucy Manwairing at the end - I can tell that she is humiliated, but I'm not sure exactly how.

Which leads me to another observation - the characters in this seem like C18th versions of us, but they aren't. They are as foreign as women in ancient Athens or contemporary Saudi Arabia, an idle rich 'leisure class' who live off the labour of others and spend their lives managing the consolidation of property through marriages.
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on 25 June 2016
My interest was piqued after watching a TV interview about the film version of this book (under the title "Love and Friendship", released in May 2016). I've long been an fan of Austen's works, but not this one; I decided to give it another try. So glad that I did! The novel takes the form of a series of letters written by several characters. This includes the recently widowed eponymous "heroine", tracking her progress from one household to the other in her search for a new husband for herself, and one for her daughter, Frederica(whom she despises). At the same time she is attempting to pursue an affair with a much younger (and married) man. Definitely not an Emma, nor a Fanny Price! The usual role of Austen heroines - meek, mild, patient, morally correct is turned on its head - well worth a read.
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on 27 August 2013
Having been steeped in JaneAusten's well known novels, I was intrigued by the unusual content of one of her writings being that of a series of letters, although this was not her first attempt at this format. I enjoyed it and have recommended it to my friends.
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