Sandition and Other Novels
Readers of Jane Austen’s six great novels are left hungering for more, and more there is: the marvelous unpublished manuscripts she left behind, collected here.
Sanditon might have been Austen’s greatest novel had she lived to finish it. Its subject matter astonishes: here is Austen observing the birth pangs of the culture of commerce, as her country-bred heroine, a foolish baronet, a family of hypochondriacs, and a mysterious West Indian heiress collide against the background hum of real-estate development at a seaside resort.
The Watsons, begun in 1804 but never completed, tells the story of a young woman who was raised by a rich aunt and who finds herself shipped back to the comparative poverty and social clumsiness of her own family.
The novella Lady Susan is a miniature masterpiece, featuring Austen’s only villainous protagonist. Lady Susan’s subtle, single-minded, and ruthless pursuit of power makes the reader regret that Austen never again wrote a novel with a scheming widow for its heroine.
The special joy of this collection lies in Austen’s juvenilia–tiny novels, the enchantingly funny Love and Freindship, comic fragments, and a (very) partial history of England–romping miniatures that she wrote in her teens. Their high spirits, hilarity, and control offer delicious proof that Austen was an artist “born, not made.”