Unserious Austen by Adam Thirlwell at The New York Review of Books (May 27, 2016).
Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship novel can be purchased on amazon.
It’s a quieter, English-country-house-version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses—where a ruthless woman is humiliated. But in Stillman’s rendering, something has happened to its finale. True, Lady Susan is now married to Sir James Martin and Frederica is married to Reginald De Courcy. But in the original, it is Reginald who broke off the relationship with Lady Susan, when he discovered the extent of her duplicity. In Love & Friendship, it is Lady Susan’s decision. It is not humiliation, but quiet control. At one point, her confidante, Mrs. Johnson, observes to Lady Susan that in fact to marry Sir James herself would not be an irrational project, given her precarious financial position as a widow: “I would rather be married to my own husband than dependent on the hospitality of others.” Stillman’s Lady Susan will not be Blanche DuBois. Her stratagems can be appreciated not as immoralities but as moving pirouettes of social survival.