Jane Austen’s Epistolary Novel “Lady Susan” Revisited and Modified
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Giveaway Win
(Note: This review is coming from the perspective of someone who has not yet had the pleasure of reading Lady Susan.)
Lady Susan and Sense and Sensibility are alike in that they were both originally epistolary novels. However, the difference is that Sense and Sensibility, was later revised and redrafted by Jane Austen and Lady Susan was not. Why Jane Austen never returned to Lady Susan is not known: Did she consider Lady Susan as part of her Juvenilia? Did she have more pressing projects needing her attention? Or did she feel that it was too deficient or immature a work? Whatever the reason, Austen never returned to Lady Susan either to revise it or to publish it. Furthermore, until now, this work has been left untouched by many and Austen-Inspired authors.
It is always a pleasure to come across an author who admires and adores Jane Austen’s work enough to devote their time, talent, and energy in an attempt to provide us Austenites with something new to savor and enjoy. And what a delight to have such an obscure and neglected work like Lady Susan focused upon! Mother-Daughter team Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway have accomplished the wonderful feat of reworking Lady Susan into a well-developed and captivating Lady Vernon and Her Daughter. Their writing portrays their fondness and respect towards Jane Austen, and displays their precise and astute knowledge of the Regency Time Period.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was the interesting cast of characters that was represented. Lady Susan Vernon, our protagonist is youthful, beautiful, charming, and in possession of a loving husband and an intelligent sixteen year old daughter. However, Sir Frederick passes away, and Lady Vernon not only loses her loving husband, but her home and financial security as well (much like Mrs. Dashwood of S&S). Charles Vernon (Sir Frederick’s brother) now inherits his brother’s estate and wealth, and he makes no attempt to relieve Lady Vernon from the poverty and distress she now faces or make good on the promise he made to his brother.
Charles Vernon, a greedy and self-serving man, has great animosity towards Lady Vernon because of her preference for his brother over him. In addition, he holds a grudge against her for refusing to sell him their second estate, Vernon Castle. His wife, Catherine, also holds no special regard for Lady Vernon because some unfortunate rumors reached her ears about Lady Vernon objecting to her marrying Charles. Charles and Catherine are such diverting and flawed characters, and the authors aptly handled them with Austen’s acerbic wit and sarcastic tone.
Sir James Martin and his mother, Lady Martin, to me, resemble Henry Higgins and his mother from My Fair Lady. I delighted in their banter and feigned displeasure and indifference with one another. Sir James is a bachelor at the age of thirty-five and is rumored to be in pursuit of marriage with Frederica (Lady Vernon’s daughter). Instead of squelching these rumors, Sir James roguishly takes pleasure in fanning the flames of this falsehood.
I dearly loved reading this novel by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, I enjoyed the mishaps and miscommunications, the treachery and the triumphs, and how it all wrapped up very neatly at the end. In addition, I like how the novel was interspersed with letters between the characters. It was entertaining and revealing to hear their voices and inner most thoughts and opinions. Furthermore, included in the beginning of this novel was a very useful family tree that displayed how the main characters are related to one another.
The one thing that held me back from giving this book five stars is the fact that Lady Vernon and Frederica Vernon were without any flaws or imperfections. Some of my most favorite Jane Austen heroines are ones that err and have faults. Jane Austen’s heroines are not models of perfection, (one of her famous quotes is: “Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked”), instead she uses her heroines to portray the benefits of internal growth, self-awareness, and maturity. I enjoy relating to characters like Elizabeth Bennet and Marianne Dashwood and seeing how their imperfections and mistakes mirror my own (and also learn from their mistakes and experiences). I would have loved the opportunity to connect with Lady Vernon and Frederica in this same special way.
Would you like a copy of Lady Vernon and Her Daughter?
I am in possession of an ARC of Lady Vernon and Her Daughter that I would love to find a lovely home for. (This is a paperback version of the book and is pictured here on the right). It has never been read and the reason I am giving it away is because I was fortunate enough to win a giveaway of Lady Vernon and Her Daughter @Enchanted by Josephine and now I have two copies of the same book!
You can enter this giveaway by commenting on this post by November 22nd. This giveaway is available to anyone and everyone (international too!)
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