I believe that Austen wrote this before she geared up to write longer form works, and chose to never have this published during her lifetime, and shows how she may have felt about about 'Lady Susan'. Certainly, it lacks the subtlety of character and rich language seen in her later known works - the insults and witticisms are less veiled, the characters (or moreover, Lady Susan herself) is a more a cut and dry villain: everything just seems a little rougher around the edges. And, perhaps more tellingly, it's written solely as a series of letters, which gives it the feel of being a literary exercise. But for people like myself, an Austen geek through and through (she's my go-to any time I need to feel better), it still has some of that sparkling chutzpah (even if less polished) so typical of the author. The only mildly irritating thing was the performer's accent - was she American? Was she British? It Whatever it was, it made me feel at odds with the text. Perhaps having been spoiled by British film adaptations of Austen made me cringe a little when I heard this weird amalgam of posh American/British. Alright, yes, I am a snob.
This is beautifully performed, and it's a mammoth work so the two performers did excellently to keep pace.
However: the book itself has some holes in it. Firstly, it gets monotonous. It's sort of two toned the whole way - even in the high action part, the circus story part, it has this sort of one-dimensional 'main character does something naughty- lots of swearing occurs - bad stuff happens' cycle which leaves you waiting for something to happen - and when the climax of action does happen, you're left feeling a bit hollow because it just feels very similar to everything that's happened before.
Also, the women aren't written particularly well, which is kind of odd coming from a female author (sexism, much Helen? Oh dear.) No really, in all honesty I wanted the lady characters to have bit more nous than this sort of flimsy damsel in distress feel that might be typical of an early 20th century pulp novel but really has no place in 21st century dramatic realist literature.
There are some beautifully profound moments by the old guy though, which I found really touching, and thought provoking too.
But seriously Gruen, step up your women characters!
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