Hello, Friends! Today, as part of the Love & Friendship Blog Tour, I have a lovely excerpt for you to read! Be sure to read down to the bottom of the post for the giveaway details!
Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated by Whit Stillman is a companion novel to Stillman's movie Love & Friendship.
Parklands, the ancestral home of the DeCourcy family, was known for the striking beauty of its Palladian exterior, thoroughly belied by the nastiness of the family within. Sir Reginald DeCourcy, the patriarch and perhaps least objectionable member of that detestable clan, was still the sort of cantankerous and insensible country baronet too-kindly portrayed in the literature of our day. Though he did not go out of his way to cause others misery, exorbitant family pride went far towards a similar result.
For weeks Sir Reginald had keenly anticipated his son’s long-delayed return, as well as the Vernons’ seasonal visit, so the arrival of a letter in Catherine’s hand was of particular interest to him. Lady DeCourcy, however, was the addressee and she had lingered abed that morning in the hope of rendering a mild ague even milder. So Sir Reginald carried the letter to her there and watched attentively as she unfolded its pages.
“I hope Catherine arrives soon,” Lady DeCourcy sighed. “The season’s cheerless without the children.” She tried to focus on her daughter’s handwriting, always difficult to decipher but with watery eyes especially so.
“I’m afraid this cold has affected my eyes.”
“Save your eyes, my dear — I’ll read for you.”
“No, that’s all right —”
“I insist. You must rest.” Sir Reginald opened his spectacles* and picked up the letter.
“Now let’s see . . .”
Sir Reginald read to himself for a bit before beginning.
“Catherine hopes you are well . . . She asks most particularly that you give me her love.”
Sir Reginald returned to the letter, which began with unwelcome news.
“Reginald has decided to stay at Churchill to hunt with Charles! He cites the ‘fine open weather.’ ”
Sir Reginald turned to look out the window. “What nonsense! The weather’s not open at all.”
“Maybe it is there, or was when she wrote . . . Could you just read, my dear?”
“Yes — some of Catherine’s voice will be in them.”
“You’re not too tired?”
“No. What does she write?”
“Is something worrying you?”
“I believe my eyes have cleared,” Lady DeCourcy said. “I’ll read it.”
“No, I’ll read each word, comma, and dash if that’s what you wish! Here,” he resumed reading: “ ‘I grow deeply uneasy (comma) my dearest Mother (comma) about Reginald (comma) from witnessing the very rapid increase of her influence (semi-colon) —’ ”
“Just the words, please.”
“No punctuation at all? All right, much easier: ‘He and Lady Susan are now on terms of the most particular friendship, frequently engaged in long conversations together.’ Lady Susan?”
“Lady Susan has been visiting Churchill.”
“Lady Susan Vernon?”
“How could Reginald engage in conversations with Lady Susan Vernon? Conversations that are” — he studied the letter — “ ‘long.’ What would they talk about?”
“My eyes have definitely cleared. I’ll read it myself. Don’t trouble yourself . . .”
“If my son and heir is involved with such a lady I must trouble myself !”
Sir Reginald now read in a tone of frank alarm: “ ‘How sincerely do I grieve she ever entered this house! Her power over him is boundless. She has not only entirely effaced his former ill-opinion but persuaded him to justify her conduct in the most passionate of terms.’ ”
Sir Reginald put the letter down and removed his spectacles. “I must go —”
“No — I’ll write —”
“If this is happening now, there’s no time.”
Sir Reginald bolted up to prepare for the journey.
* * * * * * * *
Reginald DeCourcy was stunned to receive his father’s summons to meet him at Hurst & Wilford. What could explain such strangeness? Sir Reginald’s aversion to travel was well-known; he preferred to remain on his own land always. Also surprising was the call to meet at Hurst & Wilford, rather than Churchill directly. Reginald had seen enough that autumn to suspect his sister’s meddling. So, he rode to the inn partly resenting his sister’s interference, imagining remonstrating with her for it, but partly oppressed by awareness of his own unfulfilled filial obligations.
Arriving at the inn, Reginald found his father nearly alone in the main room, standing with his back to the fire warming himself.
“Father! How extraordinary for you to be here . . .”
Sir Reginald made no reply.
“You are in good health, I trust. How is Mother?”
Sir Reginald continued silently by the fire.
“What brings you here?”
With a sort of grunt Sir Reginald motioned for Reginald to sit and then did so himself, flipping up his tail coat as he settled on the chair.
“I won’t dissemble and say I have business in this district,” he began. “What I’ve come about is far more important.”
“What could be of such importance?”
Unaccustomed to interrogation, Sir Reginald had no inclination to encourage the habit by replying.
“I know that young men don’t admit inquiry into affairs of the heart but — as the sole son of an ancient family — you must know your conduct is most interesting to us. In the matter of marriage especially, everything’s at stake — your happiness, ours, the credit of our family name, its very survival —”
“But Father —”
“Hear me out: I know you would not deliberately form an engagement without informing us, but I cannot help fear that you’ll fall into an obligation which everyone near you must oppose.”
“What do you mean, Sir?”
“Perhaps the attention Lady Susan now pays you arises only from vanity — or from the wish of gaining the admiration of a man whom she must imagine to be prejudiced against her. It is more likely, however, that she aims at something farther. I understand that Lady Susan might naturally seek an alliance advantageous to herself, but her age alone should —”
“Father, you astonish me!”
“What surprises you?”
“Imputing such ambitions to Lady Susan: She would never think of such a thing! Even her enemies grant her excellent understanding. My sole interest has been to enjoy the lively conversation of a superior lady; but Catherine’s prejudice is so great —”
“Prejudice? Lady Susan’s neglect of her late husband, her extravagance and dissipation, her encouragement of other men, were so notorious —”
“Stop, Sir! These are vile calumnies. I could explain each but will not so dignify them. I know you spend little time in Society —”
“Should you have frequented it more you’d know the astonishing degree of vile, hateful jealousy in our country —”
“Do not deprecate our country, Sir! . . . I don’t wish to work on your fears but on your sense and affection. I can’t prevent your inheriting the family estate, and my ability to distress you during my life would be a species of revenge to which I should hardly stoop —”
“Father, this is unnecessary —”
“No, let me continue. A permanent connection between you and Lady Susan Vernon would destroy every comfort of our lives: It would be the death of the honest pride with which we’ve always considered you — we’d blush to see you, to hear of you, to think of you.”
“Father, with the utmost humility let me say that what you imagine is . . . impossible.”
* An innovation in that period: Though reading glasses originated in Thirteenth-Century Italy, spectacles as we now know them, with attachments passing over the ears, were an English invention of the last century.
Whit Stillman has taken Austen’s never-finished epistolary novella, Lady Susan, reimagined it as a straight narrative, and added the hilarious new character of Rufus, Susan’s apologist nephew, who aims to clear Susan’s good name come hell or high water (even if he is doing it from "the ignoble abode" of debtors’ prison ). Despite many indications to the contrary, Rufus insists that Susan is, “the kindest, most delightful woman anyone could know, a shining ornament to our Society and Nation.” Rufus then appends his earnest tale with a collection of his aunt’s letters, which he claims have been altered by Austen to cast the estimable Lady Susan in a bad light.
Impossibly beautiful, disarmingly witty, and completely self-absorbed, Lady Susan Vernon, is both the heart and the thorn of Love & Friendship. Recently widowed, with a daughter who’s coming of age as quickly as their funds are dwindling, Lady Susan makes it her mission to find them wealthy husbands——and fast.
But when her attempts to secure their futures result only in the wrath of a prominent conquest’s wife and the title of “most accomplished coquette in England,” Lady Susan must rethink her strategy.
Unannounced, she arrives at her brother-in-law’s country estate. Here she intends to take refuge——in no less than luxury, of course——from the colorful rumors trailing her, while finding another avenue to “I do.” Before the scandalizing gossip can run its course, though, romantic triangles ensue.
With a devoted Austenian sensibility and absurd theological commentary, filmmaker and writer Whit Stillman ingeniously reimagines and completes one of our greatest writers’ unfinished works. As much homage to its muse’s perennial influence as testament to its author’s brilliance, Love & Friendship is a sharp comedy of manners, and a fiendishly funny treat for Austen and Stillman fans alike.
Love & Friendship brings a healthy helping of scandal, along with lots of laughs, to Georgian and Victorian London. Whit Stillman has also created a film version of Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, opens in select theaters on May 13th.
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Whit Stillman was born in Washington, D.C., and attended Harvard, where he was an editor of the Harvard Crimson before working in book and magazine publishing. He has written and directed five films, including the award-winning Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco, and Damsels in Distress, as well as the TV show The Cosmopolitans. His first novel, The Last Days of Disco, won the 2014 Prix Fitzgerald. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, Harper's, The Guardian, Vogue, and other publications. Visit his unofficial website for updates on this latest Amazon series The Cosmopolitans, and follow him on Twitter as @WhitStillman and on Facebook.
You can also follow him on his Goodreads Author Page.
You can also follow him on his Goodreads Author Page.
Award winning writer-director-filmmaker Whit Stillman tours the blogosphere June 13 through June 24, 2016 to share his latest release, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated. Thirteen popular book bloggers—card carrying Jane Austen fans one and all—will feature interviews, book excerpts and reviews of this highly acclaimed novel. A fabulous giveaway contest, including hardcopies of the book will be open to those who join the festivities.
THE LOVE & FRIENDSHIP JANEITE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
June 13 AustenBlog (Interview)
June 14 The Calico Critic (Review)
June 15 Diary of Eccentric (Excerpt)
June 16 Laura's Reviews (Review)
June 17 My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
June 17 Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)
June 20 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
June 20 Austenprose (Interview)
June 21 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
June 21 Luxury Reading (Review)
June 22 Just Jane 1813 (Review)
June 23 Savvy Verse & Wit (Excerpt)
June 24 Austenprose (Review)
* * * GIVEAWAY DETAILS * * *
Grand Giveaway Contest
In celebration of the release of Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, Mr. Stillman’s publisher, Little, Brown & Co has kindly offered a chance to win one of three hardcover copies of the book!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Love & Friendship Janeite Blog Tour starting June 13, 2016, through 11:59 pm PT, June 30, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Austenprose on July 1, 2016. Winners have until July 07, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!
Many thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for organizing this blog tour! And to Little, Brown & Co for this generous giveaway!
Well, what'd you think? Did the excerpt intrigue you? Have you read Lady Susan? Or have you seen the movie Love & Friendship?