Rating – 4 stars.
Having read Jane Austen’ Lady Susan a while back I was impressed, not that I can come anywhere near the brilliance of Ms. Austen. But nonetheless I was quite charmed by the book especially since I hate books which are written in epistolary style. Reading Lady Susan made me realize perhaps with the right content I can make do with the style after all.
So as I am browsing Netgalley, imagine my surprise that I see a book that’s a retelling of Lady Susan on the catalog. And since I do enjoy the concept of retellings I requested the book.
Janet Todd, the author of the book frankly has worked wonders with the content. I remember while in school perhaps during the first or second grade we were taught the concept of outline story in my school. The idea as we all know is to flesh out a story based on a rough idea, a skeleton if you might, and write it in your own way. The material provided would obviously be the same, but the spinoffs that came were vastly different. Some of them were so good they left you feeling a tad bit jealous, about why couldn’t have I come up with that, while some so silly I remember the teacher, poor thing, shaking her head and being even more eager than us for the class to end LOL.
Anyway, this kinda felt the same to me. Being an epistolary novel the original Lady Susan provided ample base work, for Ms. Todd to take it from there.
The story of course is known, that doesn’t take away the fact that sometime charming novelty can be made to the known tale by the delightful execution. As we know Lady Susan is the only character written by Jane Austen who is the very antithesis of Ms. Austen’ staple heroines.
In this novel she is not only an adulterer or a manipulative shrew, she is a gambler as well and makes no apologies for the way she is.
At the beginning of Lady Susan, we are made aware that prior to her arrival at Churchill, she has created a new scandal at Langford. Ms. Todd explores the idea of that very scandal as she writes about the liaison Lady Susan has with her friend Catherine Manwaring’ husband. All the while as she tries to get Sir James Martin to divert his interest from his almost betrothed Miss Manwaring, to her own daughter Frederica, even when she knows Frederica finds him repulsive and absolutely detests him.
What I loved about this book was how it played with the content of the letters and made the characters have these wholesome traits and personalities beyond the given, For example, reading Lady Susan you wonder what exactly causes Frederica to escape her school and here not only does Ms. Todd create a situation that makes it viable but also gives Frederica a trait, beyond what is explored in the original. Yep Frederica is shown as a girl who reading fiction novels by various women starts having an overactive imagination.
Could definitely be read one time,
Recommended for fans of Jane Austen, of course.
I was provided an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.