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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed seeing "Emma" through the eyes of Jane Fairfax.
Let's get this point out of the way immediately, this is not a book written by an author who thinks she is Jane Austen. I cannot even conceive of Joan Aiken purposefully trying to copy the writing style of Jane Austen. If she did, then she failed completely. But, that doesn't mean that this author didn't write a very good book in the style of books written during the same...
Published on 8 Feb 2010 by J. Lesley

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not shockingly bad, being not interesting enough
Maybe it's me. Maybe I read this book with the wrong attitude. I must confess I never cared a lot for Jane Fairfax in the first place, while reading "Emma". But I liked "Emma" so much that I thought it interesting to hear the story told from another perspective. Well, partly, that is true. But the author takes such a long time- half the book- to get to...
Published on 10 Jun 2001


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed seeing "Emma" through the eyes of Jane Fairfax., 8 Feb 2010
By 
J. Lesley "(Judy)" (United States) - See all my reviews
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Let's get this point out of the way immediately, this is not a book written by an author who thinks she is Jane Austen. I cannot even conceive of Joan Aiken purposefully trying to copy the writing style of Jane Austen. If she did, then she failed completely. But, that doesn't mean that this author didn't write a very good book in the style of books written during the same time period in which Austen wrote. Sometimes the writing is too prosy, overly wordy, but overall this was a very good book from my standpoint.

Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax are the same age. People in the village of Highbury think it the most natural thing in the world that the two children would be great friends. There is the difference in their stations in life, of course, but still they could be playmates and provide company for each other. This does not take into consideration at all that the two girls are so very different in nature that being forced to become friends sends them each in completely opposite directions. While Mrs. Woodhouse is alive, Jane is perfectly content to be the little ghost who slips into the house to practice the piano and take lessons from Emma's piano teacher. When Mrs. Woodhouse dies in childbirth her will reveals that she has left a legacy for Jane and childish jealousies combined with grief turn Emma completely away from Jane. Soon afterward Jane leaves Highbury to go to London to live with ColonelCampbell, his wife, and their daughter Rachel. The remainder of Book One relates Jane's life with Rachel, her family and the friends they make as they are growing up.

Book Two begins when Jane returns to Highbury because Rachel and her family have gone to Ireland. From here on the story follows "Emma" except that all the happenings are seen from the perspective of Jane Fairfax. I really, really enjoyed the entire book, but especially this portion where I realized what an impact Frank Churchill and the residents of Highbury had on Jane. How mortified she was to be secretly engaged to Frank, very much against her will in the beginning, and have to see his interactions with Emma. How frustrated she became with Mrs. Elton's insistence on finding a governess position for her. How differently Jane viewed the ball at Highbury, how she suffered because of the gift of the piano from an unknown source. Quite frankly, I would have liked to kick Frank Churchill in the shins more than once.

This was a very good book. Don't let it fool you though. There may be only 252 pages, but those pages are filled with writing in the style of 19th Century authors and close attention must be paid to understand what the author is saying. Yes, there were some times when Ms Aiken unnecessarily (in my opinion) drew our attention to the "Austen" aspects of this book, i.e. a widow with few financial resources living in Bath in Westgate Buildings, but I just overlooked those obvious references. If there is one aspect of the book which I would criticize, it is the appearance of such incredible maturity of thought and speech for very young girls. In fact, if you try to skim this book, you will entirely miss when Rachel Campbell and Jane go from eight to eighteen. This book was written around 1990 which makes it one of the earlier examples of presenting a Jane Austen book from another viewpoint. I think this author did a very good job and I will certainly add this to my list of favorite Austen-esque literature.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and enthralling; done with lightness of touch, 31 July 1999
By A Customer
One of the teases in Emma, that most teasing of books, is that it leaves you wanting to know more about Jane Fairfax, and the feeling that Jane is probably the more interesting woman of the two. And Joan Aiken tells us more. She tells us what it was like for Jane, growing up in three rooms with two old ladies and wearing the Wodehouse girls' cast off clothes; what it was like leaving Highbury for London; and what really happened at Weymouth. She looks at the stark future facing Jane, if she had not met Frank Churchill. And she takes us on through the events of Emma, who missess so much, telling us what Jane was going through. Only Jane Austin is Jane Austin, but in many ways this is the more interesting book. It wears it two hundred years of hindsight lightly. Enjoy it, you are in safe hands.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not shockingly bad, being not interesting enough, 10 Jun 2001
By A Customer
Maybe it's me. Maybe I read this book with the wrong attitude. I must confess I never cared a lot for Jane Fairfax in the first place, while reading "Emma". But I liked "Emma" so much that I thought it interesting to hear the story told from another perspective. Well, partly, that is true. But the author takes such a long time- half the book- to get to the point where Jane comes to Highbury and sets off into the plot of "Emma" that any interest I ever had in Jane Fairfax was exhausted to a point where only the mention of Emma and Frank Churchill kept me reading on.
I cannot agree with my fellow reviewers and say that in the original novel by Jane Austen Jane Fairfax is more interesting than Emma. Emma is a beautiful, complex and -what is most important- fallible human being, Jane is the perfect virtuous well-behaved proper girl she is always contrasted with. I must admit that Jane is a little slighted in "Emma", she is mainly a plot device. But in this book, she is worse: she in a stereotype. And so is Emma, which made me really angry. They are shallow, ill-made and only in name like anything Jane Austen ever produced. The point of this book was- for me, at least- to provide Jane Fairfax's angle on the "Emma"-plot, but there it let out terribly. We learn almost nothing new, the encounters with Emma are dull and predictable and the encounters with Mr. Knightley and other caracters are slight and even more predictable. As for Frank Churchill: Jane Austen's whole point in writing Jane Fairfax was to show how completely wrong Emma is about her. And Joan Aiken makes her right, by introducing this rediculous Dixon-nonsense, and the way Jane consented to engage herself to Frank under these circumstances was so outrageously out of character that from that point I refused to take the book seriously.
Comparing this book with "Emma" is bad for both books. This one can only look as artificial and shallow as a really bad copy of a great masterpiece (which is exactly what it is) and to "Emma" it would be insulting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining, 26 April 2000
By A Customer
This book gives us more depth to a very intersting character from Emma. It also gives more insight into the relationship between Jane and Frank Churchill, whilst at the same time showing us a different perspective on some of the events and people in Emma. It also shows what a grave future Jane really has to expect.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best reimagining of Jane Austen., 1 Jun 2014
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Joan Aitken actually writes as if she were Jane Austen and the idea of exploring this mysterious character from Austen's Emma is very well executed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, really well written, 21 Feb 2014
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I loved it, even if Emma is not my favourite of Jane's works. Joan Aiken really captures the spirit of Austen.Well worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and entertaining, 29 Jan 2013
By 
C. Baron - See all my reviews
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Jane Aiken's Austen sequels are far, far better than most. This book is the result of meticulous study of "Emma" so that it fits exactly with the chronology and narrative of Austen's novel. Whether one is drawn to Jane Fairfax herself or not (and let's face it, not everyone finds Emma Woodhouse a sympathetic heroine)this is a very clever work and I thoroughly enjoyed it: no jarring developments, no-one acting in a way Austen's characters would never have done. If you enjoyed "Emma," and especially if you wish that Austen had written more novels, you will probably like this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Emma" sequel, 28 Jan 2013
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Have loved this book since I first read it more than 20 years ago. Tried to buy it on Kindle, but no joy. I don't always like sequels to classics, written many years later, but I think this is one of the better ones. You really feel you get to know Jane Fairfax and it interlinks well with Emma.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, 19 May 2012
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S. Ward (UK) - See all my reviews
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There are plenty of Jane Austen sequels and companion books, good, bad and terrible. This is easily the best that I have read. I was immediately drawn into the story of the orphan Jane, her life with her grandmother and aunt and her difficult relationship with Emma. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will read it again.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stupid, 23 Oct 2007
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I have read some attempts at Jane Austen sequels and spin offs and - of course - none could come anywhere near the original novels, but Aiken's story is among the worst: almost as stupid as Emma Tennant's soap-opera style things and that's certainly saying something.

Whilst "Emma" is a beautifully written, cleverly-plotted, complex story with flesh and blood people, Aiken's stuff is stuffed with paper-thin characters. Most of them are copied directly from one JA novel or another (you can recognize Robert Ferrears, Lucy Steele, Mrs Ferrars or Lady Catherine etc.) but without any success at breathing life into them.

Emma is shown at her worst, Frank Churchill is without any charm and so on... Jane herself - though the whole thing is shown from her point of view - is "dull like ditchwater", Aiken can't make us care about her at all. In Emma - though she was a more marginal character - JA's compassion and wit made a perfect characterization for her. You could understand and sympathize with her much more though given less information than here.
Alas - this "more information" is what totally destroys the book, for the background that is given as Jane's story is so downright stupid and incredible, so totally out of character with her that I threw up my hands in desperation several times. What was Aiken about with serving us just the storyline that in "Emma" proved to be nothing else but Emma's foolish fancy at the end without any ground!! And now we get it back: Jane is actually in love with Mr Dixon, who returns her feelings but marries Miss Campbell for her money -OH MY!!- and she only accepts Frank Churchill's offer of marriage because she is desperate! Well, if this isn't stupid ... Every reader who read Emma with just a little attention is aware of the fact that Jane Farifax is so upright and honest that nothing but the deepest love would have induced her to accept such an offer - here she does not seem to care about him at all...

If you feel like you have to read this book then try to borrow it from your local library, but don't waste money on it, it's not worth it!
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