On My Bookshelf ~ Jane Austen Scholar Janet Todd Turns to Fiction and Takes on Lady Susan!

Well, not sure if an ebook can be termed “on my bookshelf” but no matter – this new book out today by Austen scholar Janet Todd has already made its way to my kindle, so a virtual bookshelf it is … and I shall drop all my other reading and begin this immediately!


Professor Todd has taken on Jane Austen‘s Lady Susan in her fictional account Lady Susan Plays the Game – this is from the Bloomsbury website:

A must-read for any devotee of Jane Austen, Janet Todd’s bodice-ripping reimagining of Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan will capture your literary imagination and get your heart racing.

Austen’s only anti-heroine, Lady Susan, is a beautiful, charming widow who has found herself, after the death of her husband, in a position of financial instability and saddled with an unmarried, clumsy and over-sensitive daughter. Faced with the unpalatable prospect of having to spend her widowed life in the countryside, Lady Susan embarks on a serious of manipulative games to ensure she can stay in town with her first passion — the card tables. Scandal inevitably ensues as she negotiates the politics of her late husband’s family, the identity of a mysterious benefactor and a passionate affair with a married man.

Accurate and true to Jane Austen’s style, as befits Todd’s position as a leading Austen scholar, this second coming of Lady Susan is as shocking, manipulative and hilarious as when Jane Austen first imagined her.

Published: 15-07-2013
Format: EPUB eBook
ISBN: 9781448213450
Imprint: Bloomsbury Reader 
RRP: £6.99  [ in the US, the kindle price is $7.19 :  Amazon.com


You can read a post by Janet Todd here at the Bloomsbury Reader blog –  where she “tells us her thoughts on writing, language, and the pressure of re-imagining Jane Austen:”

Anne Elliot, virtuous heroine of Persuasion, was ‘almost too good’ for Jane Austen. ‘Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked,’ she remarked towards the end of her life. All Austen’s novel heroines are indeed ‘good’: two of them initially hazard improper or injudicious remarks—Elizabeth Bennet and Emma—but later they learn to repress such high spirits.

Now look at Jane Austen’s own letters. Recollect that most of them address her beloved Cassandra who, after Jane’s death, guarded her sister’s image by burning anything she deemed unsuitable—not so much for the public, since Jane was not yet famous enough to have her private correspondence of general interest, but for the younger members of the extended family now living in high Victorian rather than racy Regency times.  Yet even the unburnt letters show a woman very different from the fictional heroines, a woman with a naughty propensity sometimes to laugh at the virtuous, the vulnerable or the just plain unfortunate—a wife with an uncomely husband experiencing a still birth or young girls lacking beauty and unable to compensate for it.  This Jane Austen emerges very fully in a little work she wrote just as she was entering adulthood and long before she’d published any of her masterly novels: ‘Lady Susan’….

Continue reading…



About the Author:

janet_toddJanet Todd is an internationally renowned scholar of early women writers. She has edited the complete works of England’s first professional woman writer, Aphra Behn, and the Enlightenment feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, as well as novels by Charlotte Smith, Mary Shelley and Eliza Fenwick and memoirs of the confidence trickster Mary Carleton. She is also the general editor of the 9-volume Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen and editor of Jane Austen in Context and the Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice. Among her critical works are Women’s Friendship in Literature, The Sign of Angellica: Women, Writing and Fiction 1660-1800 and the Cambridge Introduction to Jane Austen. She has written four biographies: of Aphra Behn and three linked women, Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughter, and her aristocratic Irish pupils.

In the 1970s Janet Todd taught in the USA, during which time she began the first journal devoted to women’s writing. Back in the UK in the 1990s she co-founded the journal Women’s Writing. Janet has had a peripatetic and busy life, working at universities in Ghana, the US, and Puerto Rico, as well as England and Scotland. She is now an emeritus professor at the University of Aberdeen and lives in Cambridge.


Further reading:

book cover-LadySusanpenguin

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont


5 thoughts on “On My Bookshelf ~ Jane Austen Scholar Janet Todd Turns to Fiction and Takes on Lady Susan!

  1. What a great idea! Please let us know what you think of this novel; I’m curious to see how it compares to the epistolary version that Austen wrote.


  2. Wow. Janet Todd is a pretty high-powered Austen scholar. I better not ever hear any crap again from anyone about how Austen paraliterature is an abomination in general terms. (Much of it is, specifically, abominable, but that’s another discussion entirely.)


    • Yes, Mags, Janet makes a great argument for the sequel-mania in her blog post:

      I know, I know: many people think it disrespectful, or just plain silly, to spin off Jane Austen—not that this stops any of us! But Austen’s very global fame means that her characters and plots are known outside the experience of the novels, in much the same way as those of Shakespeare or Homer. So a little fun with her iconic creations seems OK to me—and I doubt that any spinner-off thinks for a minute that she’s truly imitating or coming anywhere near the genius of Jane Austen. It’s all homage of a sort.

      So I think she has answered any nay-sayers! – [and another discussion entirely indeed about the “quality” of some of it out there!]

      Thanks for stopping by Mags!


  3. I’m finding myself agreeing with Mag’s comments, except to add to them that when I saw the calibre of the author’s scholarship choosing to write a “bodice-ripping re-imagination”, I was stunned! I wonder how many ” purists” have already registered their offense at this viewpoint? I’ll have to go back to re-read the Lady Susan tidbit this was “re-imagined” from. Please correct me if I’m wrong (and I have active Chronic Lyme treatment going on so I could have this completely garbled up) but wasn’t Lady Susan in Jane Austen’s Juvenilia? Or was it in her Minor Works? (I’m sure you can imagine my frustration at once having all of this clearly established in my mind and now re-learning it and re-reading the works and finding new things all of the time! My Lyme has its ups and downs but hopefully I’ll return to my previous memory, or something approximating it next year or so. Readers, please watch out for ticks. You wouldn’t want to lose some of your Jane Austen memories, now would you?


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