Lindsay's Reviews > Lady Susan

Lady Susan by Jane Austen
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May 16, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: brit, epistolary-novels, fiction, read-for-fun, read-postcollege, romance, marriage-plots
Recommended for: Jane Austen fans
Read in January, 2010

As with any Austen work, calling Lady Susan a "romance" is to court controversy. This is because the title character doesn't have a romantic bone in her body, and she --- along with just about every other female character --- regards courtship and marriage as less a search for True Love and happiness and more as a woman's only way to provide for herself and, eventually, her daughters.

Lady Susan is more frankly mercenary than any other Austen character, and she is not facing down the spectre of poverty, so she's more a hilarious, cynical antiheroine than a sympathetic character. She's no Elizabeth Bennett, one of many daughters of an obscure gentleman of modest means; she's the widow of one rich husband seeking out a second, and also trying to set her (maddeningly obtuse) daughter up for life with a rich husband of her own.

This is a very early Austen work, so the satire is much more pointed and direct, and there isn't as much subtle shading of character or gentle fun poked at the eccentricities of the landed gentry.

I also felt like the epistolary structure of the novel made it harder to follow the plot, especially near the beginning when there are so many different characters to keep straight. And while Lady Susan's letters are delightfully wry and catty, I didn't think any of the other characters was given enough space to establish a voice of their own. They mostly act as either hapless dupes or disapproving spectators of Lady Susan's schemes.

So, Lady Susan is a lot of fun, but Lady Susan is kind of a lightweight novel whose structure works against it.
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