Sketch of a Lady

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Reading challenge: A book that’s at least 100 years older than you.

You guys. You guys. I can’t believe it never occurred to me that there was a Jane Austen out there and I hadn’t read it. I’m actually pretty sure if not for two things this fabulous little nugget would have gone unread. Thing number one: it’s being adapted for the screen and I saw a preview. Thing number two: I needed something to read that would move quickly and be absorbing. I’m trying to read another book right now, but it’s kind of dense and I’m in my last couple of weeks of classes/internship/general craziness. And it turns out Lady Susan is free on the internet! How perfect.

It’s not like one of the full-length novels, but gosh, this was a fun little book. It’s clever and funny and sharply-observed and quite a bit cynical – I want to say “dry run of Mansfield Park” but you know, I’ve only read Mansfield Park once and don’t remember it all that well. It’s got an anti-heroine you want to boo and hiss at, but you can’t help rooting for just a little. It seems modern in some ways, too: if Lady Susan had been a contemporary woman with the same resources she possessed in the novel she might have been a corporate shark, or a lawyer, or some kind of high-powered manager. And given the absolute mania for retellings of Jane Austen (some more successful than others: ask me sometime what I think about The Family Fortune and get an earful), I’m really surprised no one has yet reprised this novel in text message form.

Suggested pairing: I was going to say “tea, you savage” but after finishing the book I realized that spending any time with Lady Susan you’d probably want something a little stronger. So you know what drink I actually like quite a bit? Port. It’s a super-tasty dessert drink. Have some port, and toast Lady Susan, and add a quiet thank-you that you don’t actually know her.

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