This is rightly held to be the weakest of Austen's completed novels, but reading it a second time after the passage of many years I was struck by how much humor—irony, sarcasm, and general drollery—the story's initial half contains.
In the latter portion Jane gets into philosophy and summarization, so we can't fully enjoy the moral triumph of the heroine. Too bad, but still worth reading.
I must disagree, I fear, with all previous reviewers. This tale requires so great a suspension of disbelief as to be ridiculous.
Let's forget about the mixture of creatures from all of Earth's ages, the remarkable excess of predators to prey, the apparent range of human societies that show evolution in action, and the stupidity of the main character in allowing the vessel to accidentally reach this bizarre land.
Instead, consider the heroes' actions when shipwrecked.
A. He dives headfirst from the deck, always a dangerous way to enter unknown water.
B. A lifeboat detaches itself from the sinking vessel to leap into the air, magically emptying itself of water and landing on an even keel.
C. Hero clambers in and immediately rescues a fair maiden, but does he then: search the surrounding sea for oars, a tarpaulin to use as sail or covering, a box of hardtack or bottle of olives, even a wooden bowl with which to bail?
None of these. He spends an hour chafing her extremities, then they all (he, she and the dog) cuddle for warmth, and give no thought whatever to taking any action to save themselves, merely waiting for rescue.
It gets more unlikely from there.
A pretty good and exciting story for boys in their early teens. Probably no sophisticated enough for anyone over sixteen.
A remarkable book all Irish men and women should read. And other folks, as well.
It has all the faults of mid-nineteenth century fiction—dependence on coincidence, melodrama, speeches never spoken by living beings before the advent of the teleprompter, and some characters too fine to exist anywhere but in Heaven. In addition it goes on forever.
Yet Lever is so fine a storyteller that I was eager to pick it up again after each errand that required it to be set aside. Although I guessed the outcomes of plot and major subplot quite early on, the plotting is sufficiently intricate that I was continually eager to see how the author would manage to work things out.
Leaves a few strands unfinished and a few villains unpunished. Further, I'm uncertain if I want to read any others by Lever, since I doubt he can top this.