Lady Susan, with its wicked, beautiful, intelligent, and energetic heroine, is a sparkling melodrama that takes its tone from the outspoken and robust 18th century.
Written later, and probably abandoned after her father's death, The Watsons is a tantalizing and highly delightful story whose vitality and optimism centers on the marital prospects of the Watson sisters in a small provincial town.
Sanditon, Jane Austen's last fiction, is set in a seaside town; its themes concern the new speculative consumer society and foreshadow the great social upheavals of the Industrial Revolution.
(P)2002 Isis Publishing Ltd
"Three of Jane Austen's less well-known novels are nonetheless classic Austen: complex characters from varying social classes concern themselves with romance and marriage. Norma West reads in a soft, feminine English voice, such as one would expect of an Austen work....West is particularly skilled with the pregnant pauses that signal an important development in the drama." (AudioFile)
Unless you are a thorough going Austen addict, this is probably not the book for you. However, if you are in the words of the Jane Austen Society of North American, a Janeite, there is much food for thought and speculation about The Watsons and Sanditon. I bought this because I had only read/listened to the fragments as parts of completions by various writers. I wanted to see what my own speculations would be without a third party present. Norma West turns in the best performance of these three works that I have heard. It is an absolute pleasure to listen to her. Her Lady Susan is the best I have heard. It is written as a series of letters, a form of novel favored by novelists of the day including Samuel Richardson, Ann Ward Radcliffe and others. Jane Austen herself helped eliminate this style of novel writing with her body of work including Sense and Sensibility; perhaps, one should say helped lay the foundations of the modern novel.
I own several completion attempts of the latter two fragments both in audio and in print. I even seem to recall a movie version of the Sanditon fragment quite a few years ago. I found Juliet Barrett's Charlotte the best of the lot. I have seen some negative comments but I frankly dismiss them as petulant or uninformed. The Sanditon fragment seems a major departure from her previous work. It is startlingly different; it is as if Austen finally knew her own power.
The fragments seem to have most if not all major characters in place and are complete enough to impute the heroines; maybe project a general direction of the intended works. One can't quite be sure about the heroes except perhaps Sidney Parker, certainly not the setbacks, misunderstandings, flaws, adventures, resolution and happy ever after can only be conjectured. The last words written by Miss Austen are included, "Poor Mr. Hollis...."
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