Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel
by Alice McVeigh
Warleigh Hall Press

"She would not always be poor, or overlooked, or dismissed as of no consideration. She would not always be obliged to live at the mercy of her uncles."

Dance parties, societal intrigue, and the struggle to rise above one's social and economic station in life are par for the course in a Jane Austen novel. It is no surprise then that McVeigh's novel is a spiritual successor that pays homage to the beloved British author's satirical wit and wisdom. The reader is introduced to Susan, a girl without parents, who relies on the good social standing and charity of her aunt and uncle. It is her sole duty, according to her relatives, to pursue economic security through marriage. Extremely beautiful and charming, yet openly rebellious against the expectations of her social status, she causes quite the headache for her relatives.

The story starts with Susan being expelled from school for being inappropriate with her music teacher (the offending action being the music teacher kissing her hand despite her protests). Ironically, Susan was sent to school because her uncle deemed her stubborn and overly opinionated. So when she returns home, he sends her to go live with her relatives in the countryside. Throughout the story, she relays all of her deepest thoughts to her most trusted friend, Alicia.

McVeigh has created a strong character unwilling to conform to the expectations for women of the late 1700s and early 1800s. However, her stubbornness and sometimes seemingly self-centered outlook may make Susan unrelatable to readers not familiar with the British literature of Austen's time. Susan's charm and beauty allures many suitors, giving her the freedom that other women would not have had during the period. The writing style is witty, fun, and has all the hallmarks of an Austen novel. It will likely appeal to those who seek a modern continuation of British gentry romance and intrigue.

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