Rating: 3 stars
For such a short novel, Austen packed a lot into Lady Susan. I saw this year’s film adaptation of it, Love & Friendship, so knew what the crux of the story was. Although I really liked the film, and thought Kate Beckinsale was great in the role of Lady Susan, I found the book different to the adaptation in a number of ways, and preferred the book.
I enjoyed the book’s epistolary style, the to-ing and fro-ing of gossip and scheming, the outrage at other people’s behaviour. I found the lack of descriptions of houses, balls, soldiers and country mansions refreshing, and appreciated the definition of the characters through other people’s perceptions of them rather than a straight narrative description.
Perhaps because the titular character is in her mid 30s, the book seemed more mature than the other Austen books I’ve read. Lady Susan is a horror but she’s also very winning, and I think I would have enjoyed her company. She’s like my other favourite Austen characters, Lizzie Bennett and Emma Woodhouse – feisty and impetuous, but with the added naughtiness of being a marriage wrecker and arch manipulator. I should disparage her, but she’s too much fun!
As it’s freely available from Project Gutenberg, it’s a low risk gamble if you’ve read all the other Austen novels.