27 September 2009

200 word review: 'Lesley Castle' by Jane Austen (Foreword by Zoe Heller)

This is a collection of Austen’s early writings, including Lesley Castle, The History of England and Catharine, or The Bower. All three works were written when Austen was about sixteen years old – and will induce envy in any budding author.

Lesley Castle is a novel composed of letters, parodying a popular style of the time. The plot is a little muddled, but you can already see Austen’s use of characterisation and exposure of hypocrisy. The History of England is another parody, in which a, “partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian,” comments on the monarchs from Henry IV to Charles I. Despite the narrator’s self-proclaimed ignorance, it actually made me think about how well informed Austen must have been to comment on each monarch, when I struggle to remember who came between Victoria and Elizabeth II. In Catharine, a story of a young lady with little wealth or family connection who falls for a rather caddish young man, you begin to see the seeds of her later works and her most famous characters.

While these works are not of Austen’s usual standard, her knowingness and observational humour is so evident that it is hard to believe they were written by a teenager.

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