Lady Susan by Jane Austen

At the end of March, I read the short classic, Lady Susan by Jane Austen, which was the next unread work in a collection of Austen’s short/unfinished works I have. Having already enjoyed the unfinished manuscript of Sanditon from the collection, I tucked myself in bed early one evening with this, hoping for another easy, comforting distraction from the troubling times that were unfolding outside in the world.

This snappy, epistolary novella tells the tale of the beautiful, charming and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon: a terrible flirt whose unwanted visits and blatant manoeuvres in search of an advantageous second marriage for herself, have men tripping over each other, and wives, mothers and sisters beside themselves! All of which is conveyed to us through a series of letters from several senders, full of juicy gossip and salacious accusations, and by which it is hilariously revealed what a piece of work the Lady Susan really is!

While short, Austen still manages to pack in plenty of her trademark wit and ironic observations of people, etiquette and society into this novella, which she started to write in 1794, at the peak of her career, but which was not published until 1871, some fifty-four years after her death. I think it is a shame this was overlooked and almost forgotten really, as it is quite a hidden gem, and Lady Susan is perhaps, I think, one of Austen’s more audacious and brilliant villains not to become famous, or should I say infamous!

Being such a brief read, I daren’t say anymore that might spoil it, other than I thought Lady Susan was a well-crafted, miniature version of Austen’s better known novels of Regency manners and mores, that I think will still delight Austen enthusiasts with its wit and elegant expression. Great read.

I’d love to hear you thoughts: Have you read this? Or have you read any of Jane Austen’s other short works?

This is book #17 off my Classics Club II list. It also ticks off my ‘a given/first name’ category for What’s in a Name? Reading Challenge 2020.

22 thoughts on “Lady Susan by Jane Austen

  1. Ooo… Jane Austen goes epistolary! I hadn’t realised this was the dynamic with Lady Susan… I think I need to wait until the library opens and get it there, as my experience with epistolary reads on my Kindle haven’t been happy. Great recommendation, Jessica – thank you!

    1. Nor did I until I started reading, SJ, but it was a very pleasant surprise! And you’re very welcome – When you have chance to read this, I hope you enjoy as much as I did. 😃

  2. This story sounds quite fun! I’ve yet to read any Austen, but you’ll be happy to know Persuasion is a choice for my book club later in the summer. As for FF’s comment…. I have a Georgette Heyer romance tagged in my library app. I need to get busy reading!

    1. Oh boy, I am still not over the fact that you haven’t read any Jane Austen, Kelly! 😅 Thank Gad that Persuasion is one of your book club’s choices for this summer! Great one to start with! 😃

  3. It’s a shame this one has gone off the radar somewhat, as it’s very entertaining. Austen is usually linked with Social Commentary, Satire, and even Proto-feminism, and indeed all these things are true, but it is sometimes easy to forget that she is also really funny. I’m glad you enjoyed this.

    1. I’m glad I have been able to persuade you to add this to your TBR, Cassie and when you have chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 😊

  4. I’ll be reading this soon, so I’m glad you found it so much fun! It almost sounds like a Georgette Heyer romance – and I mean that in a good way. 😀

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