Lady Susan by Jane Austen

classic-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Lady SusanLady Susan by Jane Austen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Enter: Lady Susan Vernon, a handsome, coquettish, recently widowed mother engaged in matrimonial schemes for herself and her daughter. Enter–by way of a letter.

Yes, it’s quite a rarity that a book I’ve so rated would appear on my blog, and this one appears because, should one love it or otherwise, I’d still recommend that other fans of author Jane Austen read this early work of hers, Lady Susan.

Maybe Austen only knew why, in the course of her lifetime, she didn’t have it published.

As for myself, I purposely came to the text without knowledge of the story, since I find that Introductions and whatnot tend to say far more about a work than I wish to know before I’ve read the work for myself. I had, therefore, all the room in the world to be surprised by this Susan Vernon.

I wouldn’t have imagined an Austen heroine like Lady Susan, and I didn’t enjoy her much, nor did I gain much satisfaction from the way it all turned out for her in the end. Plus, though there was a time when it had greater popularity in literature, the style of telling a story chiefly through characters’ written correspondence isn’t my favorite.

I imagine that Austen wasn’t the keenest on the style for her own writing either, given that she didn’t use it in any of her other six completed novels. She even gives the style up before this novel is finished, beginning her third-person Conclusion by writing, “This correspondence…could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued longer.”

I now feel much as I did after reading The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott: glad that I read it, and even gladder that the authoress got better with time.

The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
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Five Gold Stars

The Confessions of XThe Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

They think endurance is wisdom and perhaps that is so, but it is not the wisdom of men but of women, for though we live longer, history does not remember us and so we are a mystery to each generation.

In The Confessions of X, author Suzanne M. Wolfe lyrically brings to life the mystery of a woman “lost to history,” the one time concubine of a bishop of the Church, Augustine of Hippo.

I think it’s fair to point out early that I’m not crazy about one book blurb’s description of this novel’s central relationship as an “affair,” as that can connote something scandalous or unlawful, and this book isn’t about some seamy liaison. I suppose I should also mention that I’m puzzled by different blurbs saying Augustine is “heir to a fortune,” as he, being the youngest of his family, doesn’t stand to inherit anything and must make his own living.

Anyhow, as far as what this beautiful novel is, it’s a look at some of the complexities and ironies of life and love as seen through the eyes of a woman of low societal standing, attached to a man of a higher class. As a lover of language, I was drawn in immediately by the author’s fluid style, pleased to find an example of how poetry in prose still lives. Sure, there could be more no-nonsense or pedestrian ways of just getting to the point and telling us what happens, but much of this story’s singularity and effectiveness would then be lost.

I do hesitate in calling this novel Christian Fiction, only because the label may give many fellow readers the expectation that the key characters must be or become Christians if the story is to have a sacred or redemptive quality, especially considering Saint Augustine. But I find this novel utterly redemptive in that it gives a voice to one lost and nameless, and even an “insignificant” life given by God is therefore made precious.

Be Careful of Book Presumptions!

Book Presumptions

With a countless number of books waiting to be read in the world, we as readers all have our ways of narrowing down our selection. Besides considering a book’s presentation (cover design, book blurb, sample chapter, reviews, etc.), we may base the choice of our next book on genre, author, our mood at the time, or we might even rely on good old-fashioned “eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”

However, when it comes to our process of book elimination, or even how we judge books in general, how much do we presume about a book or an author before we know much about either? It’s possible we aren’t always even aware of our presumptions; we just see a book we’re unfamiliar with, and several instant (likely conditioned) thoughts speed through our minds.

Hand with Pen WritingAuthors the world over may be faced with any number of presumptions about their books or themselves. As an author, I’m aware of some of the presumptions that may come with my particular territory.

Please bear with me if I’m a bit facetious.

“A female author of sweet romance? There must be a scene where the heroine flees to her room, throws herself down on the bed, and bursts into tears. Or she cries herself to sleep one night in lovesick despair.”

“A black author with black lead characters in her book? Hmm. The story’s probably full of neck-rolling drama or may be too ‘ghetto’ or smutty for my tastes.”

“An indie author? Bad grammar and a lot of typos in her books, most likely. If no real publisher wanted to publish her, she must not be that good.”

“Oh, she writes Christian fiction? So squeaky clean it’s unrealistic, I’ll bet. Or it’s probably preachy—detracting from story to make way for a ‘come to Jesus’ agenda.”

“Why all of the novellas? She can’t write a whole book? Her stories must be rushed, underdeveloped, too light on plot, and then—poof—they’re over.”

And this past week, another presumption was brought to my attention by a fellow reader/author. (This is a paraphrase of the sentiment, mind you, not something the reader/author said about me specifically.)

“Authors write trilogies to drag a story out to make more money. So you can skip the second book in her trilogy, or pretty much any trilogy nowadays, and you won’t miss anything important.”

Yikes. Do people really do that?

Movement Trio New

How would this series make sense without the connecting story in the middle?

Now, I’m not saying any of this to belittle any book, author, or reader, nor am I saying that thoughts like the ones above are wholly inaccurate in all cases. Nonetheless, until you’re truly familiar with an author or his/her writing, your presumptions about his/her work are just that: presumptions. You might be right about that author or book you haven’t read—or you might be wrong.

So. Whatever your particular presumptions as a reader may be, I’d encourage you to pause and recognize them, and then to be careful with them. Who knows? You might be missing out on books that would pleasantly surprise you.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
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Four Silver Stars

Stars Over SunsetStars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

It was a rather blurb-less undertaking for me, starting off reading author Susan Meissner for the first time. My initial look at the cover of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard was what got me: the woman with the glamorous vintage haircut and a peek at the Hollywood Sign, which would have said “Hollywoodland” at the time this story begins. The cover design hints at this, but I’ve seen a different version since my first glimpse of it. That’s okay.

Still, Hollywood’s “Golden Age” provides a backdrop for the story of Violet Mayfield and Audrey Duvall’s friendship, and much of the book’s details on that period of the film industry should excite film enthusiasts like me. My already being familiar with the making of Gone with the Wind means that much of the novel’s information on that movie wasn’t new to me, and there are some parts where the GWTW details do indeed feel like “information” instead of needful components to the novel’s actual plot, but my interest wasn’t lost.

The writing style seems to fluctuate through the book, at times having little subtlety, not leaving much room for the reader’s discernment, while at other times the writing is keen and poignant in its reflection on the human experience. I didn’t always find the characters to be the most believable or intriguing as the story progressed, and I found the unfolding of the main romance to be flat.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading on to follow Violet’s and Audrey’s separate and shared journeys, Hollywood-related and beyond, and the book’s rather beautiful ending puts an almost jarring but natural punctuation on the whole matter.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard