by Jane RubinoThis book fleshes out Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan. In the original, Lady Susan comes across as an anti-heroine. She's seen as a coquette and a terrible mother. While it can be taken at face value, we all know Jane Austen was more complex than that. What would the story be like if Jane Austen had gone back to it to prepare it for publication? This book asks the questions: "Who is Lady Susan Vernon really?" and "What made her that way?" It turns everything you think you know on it's head!
The plot starts off well before Susan is even born. Susan Martin is a young, vivacious, accomplished woman. She's from a minor gentry/banking background and doesn't have much in the way of a fortune but her accomplishments make up for it. Her aunt Lady Martin wishes to marry her only son James to his cousin Susan. Susan loves James very much, but only like a brother. James' father objects to the match so he puts Susan in the way of some young acquaintances of his, the Vernon brothers. Charles, the younger brother is charming but Susan can see through his charm to his less than desirable personality. His elder brother Frederick, though much older than Susan, is a more interesting companion. He's quiet,loves books and dogs but is a good companion. Charles plans to ask Susan for her hand in marriage if he can be sure she will have something more than 5 thousand pounds. While he deliberates, his older brother steals a march on him and proposes to Susan. Susan eagerly accepts Frederick's hand in marriage. The couple are very happy together and adore their daughter Frederica. A financial crisis ten years into the marriage compels them to sell their home, Vernon Castle, but still does not lessen their love. They are quite content at Churchill until Sir Frederick has an accident. Charles is quite attendant on Sir Frederick during the crisis, with his own agenda in mind. The ladies are bit suspicious but they do not have any proof of villainy. Lady Vernon and her daughter are thrilled when Sir Frederick recovers. He realizes he must do something for his ladies in case of another accident or illness. Sadly, Sir Frederick dies before he can call on his solicitor. The ladies are left homeless when Charles and Catherine Vernon move in with their brood.Poverty and misery cause the Vernon ladies to visit friends in the country where they are forced to socialize with idle, silly gossips who give the ladies the reputations that stick with them for the rest of the novel. Lady Vernon attempts to remain independent of her relatives and find a suitable husband for her daughter. Of course she will consider her daughter's happiness above all else but who will marry a girl without a dowry? Rumors swirl about Sir James Martin and Frederica; Susan and two other gentlemen and fuel the gossip mill from town to country until the story reaches it's inevitable conclusion.
It begins slowly and I kept having to refer to the family tree in the beginning to keep everyone straight. The plot gets more interesting when the story picks up where Austen's story begins. The authors flesh out the letters in the original story to show the whole story. They ascribe meaning and motive behind every behavior. The characters you thought you loved to hate become sympathetic and the characters you liked become villains. It follows the traditional Austen model of money, courtship and happiness. There is a plot twist at the end that I don't see Austen including. It's very unlike her. It surprised me greatly because I didn't expect it. I kept expecting it not to be what it seemed or not to have the outcome it did. It made the story wrap up a little too neatly. This story perfectly captures Austen's message about how difficult it was to be a woman without fortune, something she knew all too well.
The writing style is very much like Jane Austen. The authors borrow her sentence structure and word choices and sometimes even lift or rewrite well known phrases from the major six novels. I didn't really like the borrowing but I did like the writing style a lot. It's not easy to mimic Jane Austen but they did it successfully.
There are brief mentions of the Elliots from Persuasion and one mention of Mrs. Ferrars. I found it kind of silly to have them inhabit the same world but at the same time, I liked the imagined prequel to Persuasion.
Like Sense and Sensibility, it illuminates the difficulties of being a widow with a daughter without money. Like Mrs. Dashwood, Lady Vernon is forced to sponge of relatives and friends to survive. Unlike Mrs. Dashwood, she worries about her future and her daughter's future. She's not silly about it like Mrs. Bennet. She's practical and realistic about their future. She is truly a concerned and interested parent. She becomes a victim of gossip, first impressions and mistaken impressions. For all of the above reasons, I felt sympathy for her and liked her a lot.
I especially love bookish Frederica. She's a scientist and loves studying plants. She's not pedantic like Mary Bennet; she's practical and good-natured. She can be a bit reserved but she has a kind heart and deserves happiness. She would be a good friend for Mary Bennet to learn from. Her friend Maria Manwaring is also commendable. She's in a difficult situation and unhappy but yet she's determined to be happy no matter what. I didn't like the outcome of her story. It's a bit creepy but she knew what she needed to be happy and I believe she will be.
The Martins are great characters. Sir James is interesting. The only person who truly knows him is Susan. He comes across as a fribble but he has more depth than that. I love the way he casually corrects the Vernons manners while visiting Churchill. He's sort of a Georgette Heyer beta hero. His mother is an intelligent, capable, strong woman who knows what she wants. She's not above meddling in a good way but knows when to keep out and mind her own business and knows when to offer kindness and help when it's needed. I love her relationship with her son. It's very different from the other mother/son relationship in the story.
Reginald is a nice gentleman. I like how his character develops over time as he grows up and gets away from the influence of his ridiculous mother and silly friends. He learns to think and form opinions for himself. He's not hot headed and doesn't really mind the gossip too much. He's kind and gentle and truly caring.
Most of the other characters are awful people, with the exception of the elderly men. Charles Vernon is especially despicable. His wife is stupid. I found her relationship with her mother really bizarre. I fail to see how an intelligent woman like Lady Vernon can be friends with Alicia Johnson whom I found incredible irritating. Her letters are painful to read knowing what's happening from Lady Vernon's point-of-view. I am curious to know what Austen intended for the secondary characters. We know she didn't like foolish, shallow, selfish people and this novel has plenty of them!
Aside from a few very minor issues, this book is excellent. It could be taken for a draft of a 7th Jane Austen novel. I highly recommend it to Jane Austen fans.
|Title||Lady Vernon and Her Daughter|
|eBook format||Hardcover, (torrent)|
|File size||5.2 Mb|
|Book rating||4.46 (340 votes)