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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed this book. It must always be a risk to take on and complete something begun by one of the great writers, but Clare Boylan has produced from Charlotte Bronte's fragment, a novel which is both a worthy tribute to Charlotte but also a very good read in its own right. Many of the familiar Bronte themes are here and there is also a sufficiently intriguing and complex plot to keep those pages turning. This novel shows the sharp contrasts between different classes in 19th century society, and also demonstrates well the problems faced by women in that society. However, at its heart is a well-crafted mystery and a cracking good tale. I think Clare Boylan managed a good balancing act. She manages to retain enough of Charlotte's style in her writing that you never completely forget her, but at the same time, she has produced something distinctive of her own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Take the first two chapters of an unfinished novel by Charlotte Bronte - the Charlotte Bronte - and complete the novel. This was the task Clare Boylan set herself and which she completed creditably. Yes, there is a difference in the prose penned by Bronte and that by Boylan, but it is so small as to be almost unnoticeable and certainly not in the reading. By some close textual detective-work you can see that Boylan has thoroughly taken on the Bronte mantle, but there is a small amount of strain in the complex facility that Bronte brings to prose. It hardly matters, though, for Boylan has kept in tune with the passion and patheticism (in the old sense of the word) at the heart of Bronte's work. True she allows her heroine to go much further into sexual danger than any early 19th century novelist would have dared, but that's no problem for us today and Boylan was brave to recognise that and not keep to the tiny margins of sexual awareness that were outwardly allowed to women in the late 1880s. It is entirely discreet and in keeping with the social message in any case.

And here we come to my one sticking point - the social message is far too loudly expressed. Bronte might have felt that the hypocrisy of society's attitude to women was wrong - but she would never have come out quite so directly or on quite so large a scale about it. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant piece of imitation, which is not to decry its value or worth, for how could it be anything other than imitation?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2007
I found this novel absolutely riveting. Like most gothic tales, 'Emma Brown' is essentially a mystery. Although it is certainly predictable at times, I kept turning the pages until I reached the end.

This adaptation may not please purists, but for those in search of a good read, I highly recommend Boylan's novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2007
The Beauty of this novel is in it's language - it's form, and descriptive prose. The beastly is the unapologetic presentation of life for the poor as it was then - grim at best, and horrific at worst. A side of life rarely even mentioned in the usual Bronte or Austen novels which so many of us love. Sadly, it's message of child prostitution is painfully current to modern days, too - we still haven't learned that lesson!

The story is a wonderful mix of mystery, detective, and romance, though, and a cracking good novel. I really hope the author tackles a version of the further adventures of Mr and Mrs Darcy, as she mentioned her interest in that area. She has a real talent for this type of writing!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2005
Charlotte Bronte began writing what would have been her last novel, "Emma," soon after "Villette" was published in 1853, and before she married her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854. According to some biographers, Charlotte allowed her husband to read the two chapters she had completed but he discouraged her from continuing. Nicholls, a diligent, serious-minded man, believed that since "Emma" was about a girl's school where the protagonist suffered, it would bear too much resemblance to "Jane Eyre." He was concerned the critics would accuse her of being repetitious. The twenty page draft was put away and Miss Bronte died five months later.
Author Clare Boylan was introduced to this fragment of unfinished work by Bronte biographers Lyndall Gordan and Juliet Barker and was inspired to undertake the awesome task of completing "Emma" - to recreate Charlotte Bronte's post-Romantic, gothic literary style as well as life in Victorian England, and to continue a tale hardly begun. This is not the first time a modern writer has tried to get inside the head and imagination of a long deceased author to write a sequel to a novel, or, as in this case, to complete one. I sincerely admire Ms. Boylan's efforts, but do not think she has succeeded. Although "Emma Brown" starts off well, and continues to intrigue far beyond Miss Bronte's contribution, halfway through the book the narrative begins to deteriorate.
Isabel Chalfont, a prosperous, attractive widow, "not young nor yet old," who resides in a rural English village, is our narrator. Three of her neighbors, the pretentious Misses Wilcox, own and teach at Fuchsia Lodge, a school for young ladies. Their enterprise is a small one, just a few students, but the Wilcox sisters are always on the lookout to expand. Therefore they are delighted when wealthy Conway Fitzgibbon, Esq. of May Park, Midland County, deposits his heiress daughter in their care. The mysterious Miss Matilda Fitzgibbon boasts an extremely expensive wardrobe and an "insolently distant" air. She possesses a plain, weary countenance and looks unhappy most of the time. This may be partially due to the fact that she sleepwalks and experiences strange fits. Matilda neither glories in her finery nor interacts with her peers. She is obviously favored by the Misses Wilcox over the other pupils, because of her wealth and status in society. However, she is indifferent to their pampering.
When letters are mailed to the girls' parents asking them if they expect their daughters to travel home for Christmas, the note sent to Fitzgibbon, Esq., is returned unopened. It appears that there is no such place as Midland County and no such person as the addressee. Another neighbor, local bachelor William Ellin, is asked to investigate. And indeed, he takes it upon himself to play detective, but consults with his friend, the level-headed, intelligent Widow Chalfont first. She pities the terrified girl, who seems to have no memory of her past, and offers her a home and affection while they wait for the mystery of her identity to be solved.
Isabel tries to draw the girl out, and at times she seems responsive. One morning, however, Matilda goes on an errand and never returns. Her destination and her history are much more shocking then anyone could have imagined. Mrs. Chalfont's story, as well as Mr. Ellin's tale, are interwoven into the narrative, where far too many contrivances and coincidences occur to make for credible reading. The excesses of fate and melodrama are among this novel's weaknesses. Also, during the seemingly never-ending period when Maltilda wanders through the stews of Victorian London, there is just too much repetition. As interested as I had become, I found the reading so tedious I was tempted to put the book down. I am reminded of the silent film episodic serial, "The Perils of Pauline." The perils never cease, but the suspense and drama do. I also seriously doubt whether Charlotte Bronte would have written as graphically as does Ms. Boylan about the perversions to be found in the back alleyways of London, especially child prostitution.
I find many similarities between "Emma Brown" and "Jane Eyre." I don't think Charlotte Bronte would have gone in this direction. Yes, there is the obvious similarity of the girl's schools, Lowood and Fuchsia Hall, where, when found to be a fraud, Matilda is tormented by her former benefactresses as much as Jane ever was by Mr. Brocklehurst. I accept that, and these scenes play only a small part overall. However, just as Jane was befriended by Helen Burns, despite her many humiliations, so does the once hostile Diana make friends with and comfort Matilda. Jane finds longed for maternal kindness in Miss Temple, as does Matilda with Isabel Chalfont. There is a governess who falls in love above her station, etc..
On a more positive note, the author is obviously familiar with Miss Bronte's writing, including her correspondence. At times I hear the voice she has strived to create throughout. She address effectively some of Miss Bronte's major themes, the search for one's identity, women's forced dependence no matter the social class, and the limited options open to educated but impoverished women. Elements of the story, apart from the girl's repetitive wanderings, are fascinating and certainly held my interest. I just feel disappointed that "Emma Brown falls short when my expectations were so high.
JANA
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2004
I was new to Clare Boylan's writing, although she is well known and respected in Ireland. When I heard of the concept, taking the first two chapters of an unfinished novel by Charlotte Bronte and completing it, I was intrigued and couldn't wait for the paperback version to come out.
The main part written by Boylan is intelligent, well researched and brighter in tone than the first two chapters by Bronte. I find Bronte's work sometimes bleak and depressing, and although there are very sad and shocking images of the lives of the destitute in Victorian London imparted by Boylan, I felt she only added them to make a point and they did not really capture the mood unlike in Sarah Walter's "Fingersmith". As the story unfolded, you always had the sense that everything would work out fine in the end.
At times, I was also reminded of Wilkie Collin's "The Lady in White". The characters are well rounded but could do with being slightly less predictable in their reactions to events in the novel. Perhaps it's a bit unfair of me to say so, but they could have walked off an Oscar Wilde stage, so two-dimensional were they at times.
All in all, a good, recommendable novel, but one which could do bit a bit more of Charlotte Bronte's grit.
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on 11 June 2013
The author has an amazing insight into the style of Charlotte Bronte and stays true to a Bronte plot. A riveting read that gets you thoroughly immersed into the mid 19th century world.
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on 2 January 2013
read it for a book club. good story, but could detect difference in authors, as this original story was finished by Clare
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on 6 June 2015
Excellent srvice !
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