Written in the then fashionable style form of letters between the characters in the book, Jane Austen tells the story of the beautiful widow Lady Susan. Lady Susan has an eye toward re-marrying well, and marrying off her teenage daughter. To achieve her objectives, she spins a tale of Victorian humor and manipulation. In the end, she outsmarts even herself.
Jane Austen's earliest known serious work, Lady Susan is a short, epistolary novel that portrays a woman bent on the exercise of her own powerful mind and personality to the point of social self-destruction. Lady Susan, a clever and ruthless widow, determines that her daughter is going to marry a man whom both detest. She sets her own sights on her sister-in-law's brother, all the while keeping an old affair simmering on the back burner. But people refuse to play the roles assigned them. In the end, her daughter gets the sister-in-law's brother, the old affair runs out of steam, and all that is left for Lady Susan is the man intended for her daughter, whom neither can abide. Told through a series of letters between the characters, the work concludes abruptly with the comment: "this correspondence…could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued any longer."
Jane Austen (1775–1817) was born in Steventon, England, and later moved to Bath. She began to write early for her own and her family's amusement. Her novels, set in her own English countryside, depict the daily lives of provincial middle-class families with wry observation, a delicate irony, and a good-humored wit. She is now considered by many scholars to be the first great woman novelist.
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Beware of the Introduction
This early work by Jane Austen is not to be missed by her fans though it might be overlooked since it typically is not found on lists of her novels.The plot being unfolded in correspondence between the main characters, though a technique common at the time the novel was written, is an interesting literary device for the modern reader.This audio version is notable because it employs a cast of narrators that provide distinctive voices for the authors of each letter.
Unfortunately, the introduction is a spoiler since it reveals aspects of the character of the protagonist and plot elements that would be better left to the reader to discover. I suggest listeners fast forward 1 minute and 25 seconds into the audio book to pick up the narrative with the first letter.