Book Review: ‘Love and Friendship’


After rereading ‘Lady Susan’ and watching the film version of ‘Love and Friendship,’ I decided to give the book version of the film a try. ‘Love and Friendship: In which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon is entirely vindicated‘ by Whit Stillman (director of the film) is written from the perspective of a (very) minor player in the Lady Susan story he concocted for the movie.

We are led to believe that the “spinster authoress” that originally wrote about Lady Susan was greatly exaggerating the events and even created false storylines to further shame the innocent Susan.

Through the narrators asides and heavy-handed commentary on events, we are shown that Lady Susan only had everyone’s better interests in mind when flagrantly manipulating everyone.

This is essentially the script of the play, but with lots of narration. We eventually find out the identity of the narrator, so I won’t spoil it for anyone. While amusing, it kind of takes away from the story itself.

As in the film, the pea incident is perhaps the most awkwardly funny part. In the book its chapter title is “The Very Unfair ‘Green Peas’ Affair.”

After the retelling of the film, we get the full text of Austen’s ‘Lady Susan’ (but with ample notations from the ‘writer’ of the first tale).

Who should read this: People who are detail-oriented. I think it’s totally skippable for anyone who isn’t borderline pedantic about Austen-related books.

What you should drink with this: Coffee, no alcohol. It took a lot of will-power to get through this. It’s short, and sometimes amusing, but not a riveting read.

-Admin B


2 thoughts on “Book Review: ‘Love and Friendship’

  1. I so enjoyed the film that I dragged my husband to a second showing. He, in turn, went out seeking the book and music. Whit Stillman could have simply published the script; instead, he playfully has created an apparatus, a concocted layer from 1856 wrapped around Austen’s fictional events of 1794. Its “editor/narrator/defender of Lady Susan” is the nephew of Sir James Martin, who was present in 1794 as a precocious five-year-old, quite smitten with his charming aunt. If you enjoy the wry voice of Austen’s narrator in any of her novels, you will appreciate what Stillman has done here.

    The book’s narrative, punctuated by increasingly distressed footnotes from the editor/nephew, is what I gather to have been the complete film; a few scenes may have landed on the cutting room floor, but they flesh out the story. The complete text of “Lady Susan” is included as an appendix, with added comments by the defensive nephew, whose increasingly compromised situation unfolds with Dickensian flair. (Hope I have conveyed that there is some “there there” without revealing any spoilers!)


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