Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: Lady Vernon and Her Daughter

Summary: Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan was written during the same period as another novella called Elinor and Marianne–which was later revised and expanded to become Sense and Sensibility. Unfortunately for readers, Lady Susan did not enjoy the same treatment by its author and was left abandoned and forgotten by all but the most diligent Austen scholars. Until now.

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway have taken Austen's original novella and transformed it into a vivid and richly developed novel of love lost and found–and the complex relationships between women, men, and money in Regency England.

Lady Vernon and her daughter, Frederica, are left penniless and without a home after the death of Sir Frederick Vernon, Susan's husband. Frederick' s brother and heir, Charles Vernon, like so many others of his time, has forgotten his promises to look after the women, and despite their fervent hopes to the contrary, does nothing to financially support Lady Vernon and Frederica.
When the ladies, left without another option, bravely arrive at Charles's home to confront him about his treatment of his family, they are faced with Charles's indifference, his wife Catherine's distrustful animosity, and a flood of rumors that threaten to undo them all. Will Lady Vernon and Frederica find love and happiness–and financial security– or will their hopes be dashed with their lost fortune?

With wit and warmth reminiscent of Austen's greatest works, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter brings to vivid life a time and place where a woman's security is at the mercy of an entail, where love is hindered by misunderstanding, where marriage can never be entirely isolated from money, yet where romance somehow carries the day. -- Crown

I completed the Everything Austen Challenge by reading LADY VERNON AND HER DAUGHTER by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway! When I first signed up for this challenge, my intent was to read at least one of the Austen's real works, but I found so many good sequels and Austen related books that I ended up sticking with them! I like to tell myself that LADY VERNON AND HER DAUGHTER is almost an Austen original (listen to me try to justify my behavior!)

LADY VERNON AND HER DAUGHTER is a really unique story because it is actually based on Jane Austen's
epistolary novella which is commonly known as “Lady Susan.” The story is about a very smart and beautiful widow who schemes to find wealthy husbands for herself and her daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and especially the character of Lady Vernon. While reading this novel, I felt as if I got an inside view into the Regency period and how difficult it would have been to be a woman during that time.

One thing I really liked about this book is that it was written by a mother/daughter team -- Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. (I don't know about you, but I couldn't imagine writing a book with another person nevertheless my mom!) I thought it was so appropriate that they decided to collaborate on the story of Lady Vernon and her daughter since the book was about a mother and daughter's efforts to improve their social position by finding husbands. As I read this book, I definitely thought the book sounded authentic -- like Jane herself; and I can only imagine how much reading and research they must have done to replicate the feel of an Austen novel.

While I enjoyed the story very much, I think I most appreciated how the authors managed to piece together this book. They took the letters that Jane Austen had written for her unfinished, untitled novella (which is now referred to as Lady Susan) and expanded on them to write an entire novel. In addition, they still stayed true to Ms. Austen's original wording of the letters while also interpreting the character and the story themselves. I also really appreciated how they managed to include so much wit and sarcasm into the story. I actually found myself laughing out load more than a few times at all of the rumors, confusion, misinterpretations and even the occasional surprise!

One thing I realized from this novel and other Regency time period books is that I am so glad that I wasn't alive during this time. Of course I love the dresses, the formality and the balls, but I have a hard time with the status of women in society. Women were totally dependent on their husbands for money; and when their husbands, died they were forced to find another man to depend on! When Lady Vernon's husband didn't leave his intentions for his wife and daughter's care in writing, Lady Vernon's brother-in-law felt free to interpret his brother's words as he saw fit. Needless to say, Lady Vernon and her daughter were left in a very complicated and unfortunate situation, and Lady Vernon had to use her beauty, intelligence (and even manipulation) to assure her and her daughter's future.

I wasn't able to find a reading guide for LADY VERNON AND HER DAUGHTER, but I do think it would make an interesting discussion book for book clubs (especially those that love all things Jane!) One thing I found about this book is that it also might appeal to teens as well as adults; and therefore might make a great book for a mother-daughter book club.

If you enjoy Austen books or Austen sequels, then I highly recommend taking a look at LADY VERNON AND HER DAUGHER. Thanks to Sylvia from Big Time PR for sending me a copy of this book.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I feel like I need to read more Austen originals before I even begin down the path of the sequels. It is pretty telling when you can complete a whole Austen challenge without doing that! This is a genre unto itself!

Meghan said...

I wouldn't really have liked to have lived then either - so many restrictions! It must have been frustrating to be dependent on men literally all the time.

Glad you liked the book - I did too! I haven't read the original Lady Susan yet, but I intend to.

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! I'm glad I wasn't alive during the Regency period as well - I'm sure I'd have been a servant and boy, did they have to work hard!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It is just astounding how many Jane Austen offshoots there are - she's like a whole industry! I wonder what she would have thought of all this!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Did you read Lady Susan before reading this one? Just wondering because I have a copy of this book but didn't want to read it first if I should also read Lady Susan. Great review! I'm glad to hear that you think it has an authentic voice.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

This sounds amazing Julie. I want to read it especially since you compare it so favorable to the original. i agree that though the wardrobes are fabulous there is much that I probably would not enjoy about this particular time period.

S. Krishna said...

I'm with Sandy - I think I've only read half of the Austen originals, so I need to read more of those before embarking on sequels!

Jenny Girl said...

I have this at home and would love to get to it soon. Thanks for the great review.

Anna said...

Austen sequels are a guilty pleasure of mine. I'll have to check out this one.

Diary of an Eccentric