If you've read all 6 Jane Austen novels, you might think you've read all there is to read from the author, but you'd be wrong. Jane started writing when she was a wide eyed youngster and unlike juvenilia from us mortals (like my own magical cats) it's worth reading. Lesley Castle is 3 unfinished works written to entertain her family when Jane was 16.
Lesley Castle: In epistolary* form, the vanities and jealousies of gentrified women are told. Margaret Lesley is bored of her castle in Scotland. She writes to her friend Charlotte who worries include what to do with all the food she prepared for her sister's wedding after the groom dies. The nastiness is not as refined and subtle as her later works but the groundwork is there.
The History of England: The narrator sums up the history of the monarchy in a few short pages and with as few dates as possible. The sole purpose is "to prove the innocence of the Queen of Scotland,...and to abuse Elizabeth..." It's funny and tongue in cheek.
Catherine, Or The Bower: Is like many of her novels is about propriety and manners of the young and courting. Catherine could have been one of her best heroines had she completed the novel. She feisty with a dry sense of humour and definite opinions.
I enjoyed this view of Austen as a young writer. I'm amazed that a teenager could write as well as she did. Her intelligence and wit comes through. The writer of the Foreword Zoe Heller notes:
"At some point in the course of reading these works, you are likely to feel the prickings of a baffled envy."
Absolutely. Jane must have been a pistol at that age. A force of nature.
Recommended for any Austen fan.
*$10 word for letter
For the Novella Challenge
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Also Reviewed By: Bookfool