Second read, after almost two decades. I've always been a fan of the epistolary, and Lady Susan, to me, is a perfect example of how well one can tellSecond read, after almost two decades. I've always been a fan of the epistolary, and Lady Susan, to me, is a perfect example of how well one can tell a tale using such a simple (and in this case, short) form. However, this is certainly not one of my Austen favorites. The wittiness, the social manners, the humor--all the trademark Austen standards are present in this novella. I can honestly say I enjoyed it now as much as I did years ago, but in the end, I'm still not a fan of Lady Susan herself. As a character, she is rich and deeply nuanced, and the lady can certainly justify everything she does with no qualms whatsoever.
But where I've loved almost all the other Austen heroines--Fanny Price, Elizabeth Bennett, Elinor Dashwood, Anne Elliot, Emma Woodhouse, heck, even naïve and annoying Catherine Morland had an endearing quality about her--there is something about Susan Vernon that leaves me cold.
Yes, I know she was written to be unlikable and manipulative. Yes, I know she was meant to be unscrupulous, an anti-hero(ine). By today's standards, she'd fit in quite well in certain circles. And I personally believe Austen had tons of fun writing Lady Susan, especially since she goes unpunished at the end.
Still, it is largely because of my reaction to her that I'm giving this 3-stars. I like liking my protagonists. So in the end, it's not her. It's me. ...more
I didn't initially know what to do with this book. The first three chapters saw me Wikipedia-ing "fanfic", trolling fanfic sites and bookmarking a FanI didn't initially know what to do with this book. The first three chapters saw me Wikipedia-ing "fanfic", trolling fanfic sites and bookmarking a Fan Fiction Dictionary, just so that I could cross-reference and wrap my head around all the jargon being thrown around willy-nilly.
Not belonging to that world, it was a bit off-putting at first. As someone who writes, but doesn't write fanfic, I was a bit out of my element, and honestly, it felt a trifle daunting. I wondered if I would spend the next few days constantly cross-referencing terms just to understand what was happening. Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding no. And thankfully, once I was over that hump, well...it got good.
Really, really good. As in, I-totally-love-the-level-of-Scarface-snarkiness good. Novel-within-a-novel good. Forget-you're-a-forty-something-and-remember-how-it-was-when-you-were-a-selfish-teenage-misfit good.
Yes, on the one hand, it's fairly standard YA fare. Lots of angst. Lots of snarkiness. Something heartbreaking happens. In this case, two heartbreaking things happen. Lots of soul-searching. Lots of "A-ha!" moments as our heroine realizes she's not quite the hero in her own story. Catharsis comes, but on our heroine's terms. Requisite reconciliation occurs. Girl gets boy. Check, check and check. So yes, fairly standard YA fare.
And here's the big but.
Strangely literary (quite the adroit flash criticism on The Corrections and Infinite Jest!), and satisfyingly enough, a smart and cheeky look at the inner workings of an outsider's psyche. At the same time, it's a novel about moving out of your comfort zone, and the trials and travails that accompanies that choice. It's a novel about choices. About what makes friendships real (is it any less real if you have friends over the internet vs. IRL?) and what actually constitutes friendships. It's about choosing to belong or choosing to be an outcast, and what that decision means. It's about living your life or living vicariously through the life you've created and written about. And it's about so, so much more.
I have a feeling that this book will mean different things to different people. For me, it brought back memories of a very awkward time in my own teenage years (minus the internet, because, you know, I lived in the time of the mastodons...not quite as old as dinosaurs, but still!), when I was a very angry, very caustic Catholic school girl, who wore her sarcasm as a badge of pride. And, to be a little bit honest, as a shield of sorts. I saw parts of myself in Scarlett---still see parts of me, actually. Kinda scary to admit that.
Read this book. Don't let the naysayers sway you otherwise. You won't regret it....more
If you like Harlequin romances, but only the PG-13 versions, then this book is for you.
If you like Columbo, or Murder She Wrote, thenHmmm, let's see.
If you like Harlequin romances, but only the PG-13 versions, then this book is for you.
If you like Columbo, or Murder She Wrote, then this book is for you.
If you like characters like Mr. Rochester or Mr. Darcy, but are willing to settle for their third cousins, twice removed, then this book is for you.
And if you loved The Lovely Bones, and totally fell for 14-year old Susie Salmon, well, you may not quite be drawn to 16-year old Lucrezia de Medici Este.
I guess that's what got to me. It's a second- (maybe even third-) rate mystery. You have a plucky heroine asking all the wrong questions and bumbling about a new place, raising all sorts of trouble, for herself and others. You have her husband, a prickly, vain, arrogant snoot who reminds me of the sods 80s romantic heroines always fell in love with. You know the type: tall, dark and handsome; made with equal parts brash conceit and barely hidden misogyny; excessively rich; great in bed (despite that PG-13 rating). The guy you love to hate. Yet deep down inside is a soft and squidgy center, and really, we all know he's just looking for the right partner to bring out the ooey-gooey in him. And that heroic side of his comes out once the heroine is in danger, and guess who comes to her rescue! (Yeah, not a huge surprise at all...)
Then don't forget the dead girl. Because the dead girl always has to give her side of the story. Except that unlike Susie Salmon, this dead girl is not very likable. She's all vitriol and spite and everything not nice. She swears like a sailor, and has a libido like one, too. But that's not why she's unlikable - she's unlikable because she's completely unapologetic, she's vindictive, and is a bit of a psychopath.
I don't know. The mystery wasn't that great. There were too many coinky-dinks. However, it was well-written, and I appreciated that Elizabeth Loupas used Browning's My Last Duchess as a jumping-off point. But even the most well-written narrative can't be saved by a weak plot and fairly unlikable characters.
One good thing that came out of it? I now know a tad bit more about Italian history. It got me interested enough to do some research into the Estes. And I truly did find Barbara of Austria a fascinating historical figure; I just wish more was written about her in the histories. ...more
It scares me to think that this was meant to be the first in a series. Because...why? No, seriously. Why???
As someone who does not read a lot of romanIt scares me to think that this was meant to be the first in a series. Because...why? No, seriously. Why???
As someone who does not read a lot of romance lit, I have no qualms admitting that I actually adore Jessica Park. I've enjoyed her other novels, specifically the Flat Out Series and Left Drowning.
This one though...this was a mess. A horrible, stupid mess.
About a fifth of the way in, I thought "Eh. This is pretty messed up, but I don't care, I'm sticking with it. It will probably get better."
About a third of the way through, I thought, "Okay, standard Jessica Park steaminess." But I'm not still not sure what to think.
Shortly thereafter, it lost me. Death tripping, sure. Interesting concept. But if someone kills my boyfriend right in front of me and I start to question my own sanity, and I then engage in utter weirdness with my now-resurrected boyfriend and the guy who killed him?
Not my cup of tea.
The part that bothered me the most was how easily everyone forgives each other. Sure, friends make excuses for their friends' behaviors. Sure, friends give out free passes. Sure, you wanna make out with your best buddy, okay, if you're into it, why not? But dude, if you my boyfriend in front of me, or kill me later on? I'm not so sure that is an easily forgivable offense.
I understand that Jessica Park wanted to try something new. That she wanted to explore the nature of addiction. Of how to heal and be healed after suffering untold psychological traumas. But man, there had to be a better way to deal with it than this. And really, if I had known that something as simple (view spoiler)[as watermelons (hide spoiler)] could be a temporary curative for addiction...
Yeesh, I have no idea what possessed her to think that that would fly? Talk about suspension of disbelief.
So, Jessica Park. You usually entertain me, and I'll even admit it, you turn me a bit gooey on the inside with your inevitable heartbreaking moments. But this one? My disgust level for most of the characters in this novel, as well as the plot, was pretty much hovering somewhere between 8 and 9 for a majority of the time. And that saddens me.
It saddens me, Jessica Park! You owe us another Flat Out or another Left Drowning! But no more Death Tripping!!