On Austen’s LADY SUSAN

Okay so!

A little something different today!

I recently read Jane Austen’s short epistolary piece, Lady Susan, and boy, I liked it! Five out of five stars, was vastly entertained, what fun, deliciously scandalous!

They speculate it was written about 1794, and didn’t see publication until 1871, for some reason or other. It offers a snippet of the lives of the beautiful widow Lady Susan, her poor daughter Frederica, her friend Mrs Johnson, and several other characters, letter-writing ones being Mrs Vernon (the wife of Lady Susan’s brother in law), her brother Reginald de Courcy, and their parents. Behind the scenes, we are also told something of Lady Susan’s lover, Lord Manwaring,, and his wife and daughter.

This all may sound very confusing, and it is, at first. Here, I stopped reading after the fifth letter and drew a diagram (it’s actually missing a dotted line but oh well):

susanmap

Lady Susan is delightful, and I’m just pleased to have read it. It’s more worldly than Austen’s other novels – yes, even more than Mansfield Park – and, it seems to me and as Margaret Drabble points out in the introduction of the Wordsworth edition I have, probably owes something to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s famous epistolary work of schemes and sex, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782).* As soon as you get the characters straightened in your head, the story becomes highly entertaining, and the way Austen conveys the story through several different people writing letters is superb; it is deft and clever, with no overlaps, and with very relatable feelings.

I recommend it very, very warmly. It’s very short, maybe 60 pages, and makes excellent reading in-between books.

The reason I finally read it that there is a movie coming out. Yup! As far as I know, this is the first adaptation of Lady Susan – quite annoyingly titled Love & Friendship after another longer and better known piece of Austen’s juvenilia – and boy, it looks gorgeous! Watch the trailer HERE! (Costumes! Pretty people! Wit! Fun!)

There are no words for how much I’m looking forward to seeing this! It’s been in the works for quite a while, but is finally coming out this year. Hooray for new Austen adaptations!

——-

*I highly recommend Dangerous Liaisons! It’s a very decent book, and there is also a fantastic adaptation from 1988, based on the stage version of the novel, starring Glen Close as Marquise de Merteuil, John Malkovich as Vicomte de Valmont, Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame de Tourvel, Uma Thurman as Cecile de Volanges, and Keanu Reeves as Le Chevalier Danceny! Directed by Stephen Frears, too! (There are other adaptations, but this is seriously the best one.)

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