3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2012
I read this book as part of my preparation for the course I teach to adults. We're going to be studying PD James' recent 'homage' to Jane Austen and three of Austen's unfinished works: The Watsons, Sanditon and Lady Susan.
It says something for Jane Austen's brilliance that she never had to resort to murder, intrigue or the salacious to make her books fascinating; she found drama in the small routines of genteel life; whist parties and country dances and strawberry-picking. Death, when it occurs, takes place off-stage, likewise elopement, the production of 'natural' children and war. Louisa Musgrove's fall at Lyme is the closest she comes to high drama.
As far as I know none of her mimics have been so brave or so clever. Murder, adultery and sex usually worm their way in to the numerous Austen prequels and sequels and spin-offs and immediately they disqualify themselves to be considered Austenesque.
Of all the writers who try to emulate Jane Austen I think Joan Aitken is probably the best although even she does take the plots off in some pretty left-field directions at times (Emma a lesbian? Never!)However her language has something of Austen's acerbic wit and economy and there is sufficient preoccupation with the small but important details to give readers a distinctive - though inevitably dilute - flavour.
Here, Joan Aitken takes Austen's fragment The Watsons and completes it as Emma Watson. She plays out the characters in a way which is reasonably true to their original creator's style and adds others from Austen's arsenal: there is a bevvy of awful sisters , a shy, inarticulate baronet, a dashing, unreliable bachelor, a handsome but weak-willed vicar and a valetudinarian father.
For my liking the book is much too short - Aitken doesn't give the characters enough scope to develop, she hurries them through the process too quickly. There is a lack on the minutiae which makes Austen so unique and, in my view, so wonderful. Oh for a bit more trimming! Also, the beginning is rather ungainly. Although Emma Watson starts off where The Watsons left off, it is far from seamless as Aitken unnecessarily recaps and reiterates events and characters from Austen's opening. Either this is a stand-alone novel or it's an attempt to complete an unfinished work. In either case, retrospective explanation shouldn't be necessary.
Of course the problem with Jane Austen's novels is that there just aren't enough of them, so authors who attempt to emulate her style or invent further episodes for her characters are bound to be fallen upon by Austen-hungry readers.
This one works, as far as it goes.
on 24 April 2015
i had expected more, and better, from ms aiken...this is too full of sudden changes, in characters, settings and events...every page, almost, has a new twist...it really is not necessaryvto turn yhis fragment of a story into melodrama, and pull out all the stops...i miss restraint and a modest, realistic and sensible approach!