Tuesday, 31 March 2009

My Jane Austen Weekend

I decided to catch up with some of the lesser-known Jane Austens over the weekend. First I read Northanger Abbey which I found charming and amusing. It wasn't without its darker side, although that was not the Gothic horror anticipated by the heroine but had a rather more mundane explanation. I really must try to read The Castle of Udolpho (ETA, oops, I meant The Mysteries of Udolpho), one of the works satirised by Miss Austen here. It's not essential though and you can still appreciate her sharp wit without this. Some critics feel this book (an earlier one) suffers from a lack of cohesion but I think it works very well and is as well worth reading as the more-famous Pride and Prejudice.

Next I eagerly attacked The Watsons, the story of a young girl first coming into society in a small country town. The interplay between the sisters and the characters of Tom Musgrave and Lord Osborne were hugely promising, so imagine my horror when I turned the page only part of the way into the story and discovered that I had been reading an unfinished fragment. Noooooooooo! It's still worth reading, but just be warned, unlike me, that the story comes to a sudden end. The same applies to Sanditon, an unfinished novel from Jane Austen's later life. It's set in a speculative seaside resort which must have been a very topical subject at the time. Again there is an interesting cast of characters whom I would love to have read more about.

Lady Susan is an early, short work, written in letter form. This isn't my favourite style but I soon became absorbed in the different characters as they were cleverly introduced. Lady Susan is a deliciously bad anti-heroine. Although the book is completed, the ending comes very suddenly and seems rather disappointing, but at least the ends are all tied up.

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