Everest House ISBN: 0896960749
Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. The author following the plot of JA's letters in narrative form and sticks quite closely to it. She does a good job of fleshing out the characters and it is quite a nice read after all.
The story is told mostly from the perspective of Lady Susan and her daughter, Frederica. Karr shows the motivations of Lady Susan and, therefore, gives her more dimension that JA did. However, she is still an evil, cruel manipulator. Frederica is somewhat like Fanny Price; meek and submissive, but with a strong will. She will not be forced into marriage with Sir James!
Ms Karr changes the ending of the story a little, but it is not offensive. In her after word, she explains her motivations for some of the changes that she made. She also acknowledges that Austen's work is really not unfinished and that Mainwaring is often, in other editions, Manwaring.
Another rare book that is out of print, but worth looking for and reading.
I loved several other books by Karr, so was excited to read her interpretation of this novel, although I have never read the original. Her Lady Susan has a different style than Austen's usual style, but it feels appropriate somehow. And her touch is brilliant - she has this knack of writing a mystery that sneaks up on you in the middle of romance or fantasy or whatever.
Is it fairly true to Austen's manuscript? In any case, it's well worth reading!
The original novella deals with Lady Susan, a beautiful and crafty young widow who uses her appearance a nd intelligence as a weapon to dupe and manipulate everyone to her own satisfaction. She takes on a married lover while making at least two younger men fall in love with her, all the while trying to bully her "milky", oppressed daughter Frederica into marrying a foolish young baronet. She is the heroine-villainess of the tale, and a rather unique figure in Austen's literature.
Karr's completion of this tale is absolutely wonderful. She chooses to re-write Austen's story in third person rather than the original letters. Her prose is clear and beautifully written and, while not exactly Austen, very suitable to the kind of novel she is writing. Immeasurably superior to the many poorly written completions deluging the market nowadays.
Karr's characterization is excellent as well. She carefully follows the characterization presented in Austen's novella, and with additional, attractive development. Lady Susan is clever and crafty; Frederica is shy and "milky" but, at the same time, a serious, deep character, and extremely appealing as the novel's heroine. Other characters follow their original outlines, except two. Maria Mainwaring was drastically altered, from a sister of Mainwaring's into a daughter, and into an attractive character; but Karr's reasons for doing this were perfectly sound, and Maria merges gracefully into the novel. There is also the important addition of Charles Smith, only briefly mentioned in the novella but fully developed as Karr's original character. In some ways he perhaps becomes a little too important, but by the end of the novel I understood the reason for it and did not resent Karr's development of this character, who is actually quite appealing. My only complaint is that he seems to be better developed and more sympathetic than Reginald De Courcy. Karr follows Austen's plot fairly closely, only making modifications where needed. "Lady Susan" is incomplete in some ways, Austen finishing the tale with a hasty, although funny post-script. Karr completes the tale, only altering details when necessary and also enriching the rather slim plot by adding details to originally short incidents or events only briefly mentioned.
There is one extremely significant alternation, in the romantic department, which I am not sure that all readers would like; but I understood the reason for it (although the author did not specifically state it in her Author's note) and I ended up liking it, even though it does not follow what was (apparently) Austen's original intentions.
In summary, this is definitely one of my favorite Austen sequels and completions, and superior to most modern Austen derivative works. My other favorites are John Coates' "The Watsons" (1969) and Another Lady's "Sanditon". (1975).