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Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed
Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed
by Joan Aiken
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Barely adequate, 5 July 2003
Joan Aiken’s attempt to re-write Jane Austen’s unfinished early piece, “The Watsons”, is far inferior to her take on “Emma” from Jane Fairfax’s point of view (in a novel named after its heroine, “Jane Faifax”), and it does not have the saving grace of “Jane Fairfax” by a semi-entertaining story with fairly believable characters.
Emma Watson, aged 19, is returned to her impoverished family, of 3 sisters and 2 brothers. One brother, Robert, is rich and affluent, but disagreeable, and is married to an equally disagreeable woman. Another brother, Sam, is good-natured, and a budding surgeon. Elizabeth, the eldest sister, is kind and hard-working, and is suffering from a disappointed love of many years ago (rather like Anne Elliot of “Persuasion”). But the other two sisters, Penelope and Margaret, are pretentious and scheming. Emma’s gracefulness draw the attention of a wealthy peer, Lord Osborne, and his former tutor, the gentlemanlike Mr. Howard, who is loved by Lady Osborne, Osborne’s elegant mother.
Aiken keeps true to some of Austen’s intentions in her characterization. She does not attempt to reform any sister, as Joan Coates’ completion (“The Watsons”) did Penelope. However, in all other respects she changes both plot and characters.
For example, the would-be triangle between Howard, Osborne and Emma is reduced to nothing. Neither of the men is particularly appealing, and both are weak-spirited and/or weak-minded. The relationship between Emma and her final choice is so negligible that it is barely developed in several pages. The same can be said for Elizabeth’s relationship with her own destined spouse.
While the prose is the usual Aiken well-written fare, events crowd quickly one upon the other, with too many characters introduced in the first section of the book, and then so many events occurring with long spaces of time narrated briefly. Consequently, the book is teeming with incidents none of which leaves and impression on the readers, or supplies them with any growing attachment to any of the characters. Indeed, some of the events are downright unnecessary and unpleasant.
In summary, this book is unsatisfying, and I would not recommend it. If you wish to read a super completion of The Watsons, read Coates’ completion. It is not 100% true to the fragment, but it’s a good story—unlike Aiken’s effort.

Tolkien and the Critics
Tolkien and the Critics
by N.D. Isaacs
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A 1960s collection of critical essays on Tolkien, 3 July 2003
This collection must be the first serious effort to look at Lord of the Rings as "serious" literature, largely due to Tolkien's overwhelming popularity in the 1960s. Some of the essays are by such notorious writers such as C.S. Lewis and M.Z. Bradley. They look at Tolkien's world, races, characters, and the meaning of power in the trilogy, and the tones range from admiring to a little bit smug (surely, Lord of the Rings isn't "literarature" because... and then looking at a fixed idea, at the time, of what "literature" is.) The essay collection is, on the whole, interesting and insightful. Recommended, if you can find it (it's currently tough to find).

Myth, Magic and Meaning in Tolkien's World
Myth, Magic and Meaning in Tolkien's World
by Randel Helms
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful look into Tolkien's LotR and The Hobbit, 3 July 2003
Randel Helms attempts in this book what must have been one of the first serious book of criticism on Tolkien's work. As such, it as very satisfying.
Helms begins by looking into Tolkien's 1930s lectures on old Anglo-Saxon poems such as Beowulf and relating them into his growing vision of "Lord of the Rings", particularly of his vision of what it means to be a hero. He proceeds by making a (largely mocking) psycho-analytic examination of "The Hobbit" as a tale of growing up for a child. But particularly, and more importantly, he looks at its structural parallels to "Lord of the Rings" and how it indicates Tolkien's growing awareness of the potential of Middle-Earth, as well as of Tolkien's re-thinking of the meaning of power as symbolized by the Ring. Helms then proceeds into the meat of the book-- an examination of the strucutre of "Lord of the Rings" and the dynamics that make up its world, and the meaning of power in the work, with the Ring as a central character that symbolizes it, and the hobbits as its heroes. Finally, he looks into two of Tolkien's minor works, "Leaf by Niggle" and "The Smith of Wooton Major" as allegorical works that expose Tolkien's relationship to his art.
An insightful and interesting book, it is highly recommended to Tolkien lovers who wish to read serious Tolkien criticism.

Mischievous Meg
Mischievous Meg
by Astrid Lindgren
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming tale of a Swedish girl, 1 July 2003
This book has been a childhood favorite of mine, and I wish they would reprint it. Meg (Madicken in Swedish) is a 9-years old girl who experiences adventures with her family in a small Swedish town- particularly flanked by her beautiful, angelic-looking, spoiled sister Elsbeth. I particularly remember an episode about the family having a pincnic and bulls chasing them so they have to climb up a tree, and Madicken's efforts to play matchmaker. A charming book, it is followed by another, telling of Madicken's life after another little sister is born (this one was never translated into English, I think). Recommended, if and when it will be reprinted!

Presumption: An Entertainment
Presumption: An Entertainment
by Julia Barrett
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, and no more, 27 Jun 2003
I've read better Austen sequels. I've also read worse. "Presumption" is a light read, about Georgiana growing up and deciding between two men that roughly complement Elizabeth's situation with Darcy and Wickham. The P&P characters all come back, not always exactly as we knew them, but not so terribly out-of-character that the writing may shock or disgust the reader into stopping their reading. The plot centers around a situation taken from Austen's real-life incident, when her aunt was accused of stealing lace from a shop.
Though Georgiana is too 'spirited' to resemble P&P's Georgiana, she is an engaging enough character, and her to-be mate is also very appealing. However, the rest of the characters tend to be a little artificial, and the jokes are forced and sometimes downright silly, as when Lady Catherine suggests to drink a remedy for a gout that contains soap. The prose, again, is artificial, but sufficient. It's definitely a better book all-in-all than Barret's other attempts, the dull S&S continuation "The Third Sister" or the terrible Sanditon completion "Charlotte".
If you are not a purist, and are looking for a light, entertaining little sequel to Pride and Prejudice, read this book. If you are a purist, read Marie Dobbs' "Sanditon" or John Coates' "The Watsons". Otherwise, however, "Presumption" is one of the nicer Austen sequels out there, and if you're not too picky, you'll like it.

The Watsons: Continued & Completed by J.Coates
The Watsons: Continued & Completed by J.Coates
by John Coates
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and engaging!, 27 Jun 2003
This is one of the two best Austen continuations I've read, the other being the Sanditon completion by Marie Dobbs.
The Watsons was a fragment written by Austen in her younger days, and abandoned after several chapters. It tells the story of Emma Watson (which Coates changes to Emily, to distinguish from Austen's famous Emma), a young girl who has lived with her aunt since she was 5 years old. Upon her aunt's re-marriage after her father's death and move to Ireland, she is obliged to return to her rather impoverished family, consisting of 3 sisters and 2 brothers, and an ailing father. Complications are added to the plot by the attentions bestowed on Emily by Lord Osborne, an awkward young man, and his tutor, the gentlemanlike Mr. Howard.
Coates' language is excellent, highly reminiscent of Austen's prose- a rare thing in Austen sequels. While he does not keep exactly true to the fragment, changing some characters such as Penelope, Emily's sister, his reasons for any changes he makes are plausible, and do not appear like an unnecessary change. Indeed, they are more like slight revisions than changes, to prevent the characters from resembling other Austen characters in her completed novels. Austen herself probably would have similarly revised the piece had she completed it.
Coates writes a good, plausible plot, and keeps true to Austen's sketch of the characters where he must, while changing or developing the characters where he can in a proficient manner. My only complaint is that while he re-creates Penelope to make her an appealing character, he then turns around and gives her center stage, neglecting Emily's relationship with Mr. Howard in favor of Penelope, and Emily's relation to Lord Osborne. Indeed, Coates himself is aware that he did not do Mr. Howard justice. Perhaps he was not interested in him since Mr. Howard is given center stage in previous two continuations by other authors, but this is still disappointing. In the end, one feels that this is really Lord Osborne's story, and Penelope's, and Emily is more of the star because she 'must' be.
Aside from this, the book is more than recommended. It has excellent prose, a good plot, and engaging characters- a rare thing in an Austen continuation, which is to be treasured. Buy it.

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