Catharine by Jane Austen
Catharine, an orphan living with her maiden aunt in Devon and sorely missing her absent friends Cecilia and Mary Wynne, is delighted by the visit of her cousin Camilla Stanley, a spirited if somewhat silly young woman. The Stanleys bring a taste of high society, but the arrival of their unreliable son Edward introduces company of a different kind.
As Austen stories go, short or otherwise, this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I can make exceptions for this being a very early work, and also an unfinished one, but the only real joy here is seeing the workings of Austen’s young mind.
Catharine’s story is very similar to those of women in Austen’s later works. A naive, innocent heroine becomes caught up in society life before a young gentleman enters and throws her world into a spin. Although we will never get to hear whether or not their lives tangled up together enough that it led to marriage, we can assume by the well-known Austen formula that she got her man in the end.
I found this difficult for a few reasons, mainly due to Austen’s inexperienced punctuation and general errors. There was a distinct lack of paragraph breaks which meant reading overwhelming walls of text without relief.
Having said all that, it’s amazing what Austen has accomplished with this at a mere seventeen years of age. Her mark is all over it - the beautiful character building, the little hints at the ridiculousness of societal customs, and yes another nineteenth century fuckboy. I would have loved to discover what happened next, but I imagine there are parts of both Catharine and Edward littered throughout some of Austen’s more well known characters.
This is a worthwhile investment in your time if you’re an Austen fangirl as I am. On it’s own, however, it’s a bit disappointing unless you’re going in with the knowledge of its incomplete state.