Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: "Lady Vernon and Her Daughter"

“Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Jane Austen Novel”
By Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Crown Publishers, New York. 2009.

One of Austen’s earlier novels, not published until well after her lifetime, gets an expanded treatment in this novel. Lady Susan, an epistolary novel written in 1794 but published in 1871, is a short work begging for an expansion into prose territory, and authors Rubino and Rubino-Bradway both have done suitable jobs adapting the letters to create a larger story while managing the tricky task of keeping Austen’s town.

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter follows the titular characters (Lady Susan Vernon and her daughter Frederica Vernon) from before Lady Susan’s marriage to her adult daughter’s marriage, starting before Austen’s original work and following through to where it ended. Important details are added to flesh out not only the Vernons but the extended family. Particular attention is given to Charles Vernon and his relationship with his deceased brother Frederick, which comes to influence his decisions to help or hinder Lady Susan in her endeavors. The mysterious Mrs. Johnson, Lady Susan’s mysterious confidant, appears in the flesh, and Lady Susan is given new motives that would not make it onto paper. This book includes some of the original letters from Austen’s novel, though altered to fit the book, and the ending is more sympathetic to its female leads.

This solid rethinking of Lady Susan deserves a place on the shelf of any Austen aficionado.