This short epistolary novel (more of a novella, really) was never published in Austen’s lifetime. It reads like the secret outpouring of subversive thought that one might scribble in a diary, lock it away in a drawer, never intending it to see a broad audience.
I have to say, it’s my favorite Jane Austen to date.
I loved Lady Susan’s scheming. She’s contemptuous of much of society, but she knows that it’s of utmost importance that she play the game to her best ability. A woman in Austen’s time depended on the provisions of others. If your husband dies, well, you’d better snag a new one if you don’t want to bounce from relative to relative for the remainder of your natural life. Or worse.
Lady Susan might be harsh, and she’s certainly manipulative, but she’s also a realist.
Want more like this? Try:
- Edith Wharton, House of Mirth. What could happen if you end up a single gal in the 1800s.
- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. A favorite epistolary novel, the main characters being a senior demon corresponding with his younger nephew.
- Mary Shelley, Mathilda. Another rather scandalous novella from a women writer of Austen’s general time period. This wasn’t published until 19!59, as the incestuous subject matter was apparently too outrageous.