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27
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Watsons (Hesperus Classics)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2005
Continues the story of unmarried sisters and changes of fortune begun by Austen. By retaining the period mood and the shrewd eye, Williams achieves a smooth transition towards a convincing end for this story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2014
I bought this, thinking it was just Jane Austen's unfinished novel. I was not interested in the continuation so did not finish the book. From what I read, the continuation is okay, compared to some Austen-esque adaptions. The adapter is clearly knowledgeable of Austen's intention for the novel and other references made by her family. It was clear, however, when Austen's work ended and the modern adaption began. It had the common failings of historical fiction: trying to let us know too much historical information. Austen is notible for how self-contained her novels are, with their very slim references to the political context of her time. The sudden appearance of reference to contemporary figures, and the characters claiming to know them, switched off my attention.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2013
I am a great jane Austen fan and have read all her novels and have just recently come across her unfinished works, I read the unfinished the Watson's first then searched for finished novels, I have thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2006
I´ve never written a review, but I HAD to review this book--it is just awesome. Like many Janeites, I wish she would have left us with many, many more novels than she did, and have been yearning for books that take off on or complete her work while emulating her style. There are plenty of books out there attempting this, but I have found most of them disappointing. Well, not this one. As another reviewer remarked, it is difficult to tell where Austen´s original manuscript ends and the new material starts--the author has done a magnificent job adopting both Austen´s language and her style of setting and advancing plot, her ability to sketch character, her subtle humour, etc. I just loved this book, and only wished it would have been three times as long (as it was, I read it in one sitting). Highly, highly recommended!!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2005
I have got an advance copy and think it's brilliant! It was hard to tell where Austen ends and Williams takes over because their language is very similar. I liked Emma and laughed a lot at her greedy sisters and the awful Tom Musgrave, who thinks he is God's gift to women. It made me think what it would have been like to be a young woman in Emma's situation, who is abandoned by her adopted mother and sent back to a family who seem to resent her, with no money and no job. It is a light-hearted book though, and well worth reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2006
I have copies of, I think, all of the easily-obtainable completed versions of The Watsons (by: L. Oulton 1923; Edith and Francis Brown 1928; John Coates 1958; "Another Lady" 1977; Joan Aiken 1996; and Merryn Williams 2005).

None of the versions I have read, really have the stature of any of the books completed by Jane Austen, but this version by Merryn Williams is about as good as they get.

If I might make a plea, it is that you do not ignore the version by John Coates - if you can get a copy. As he (John Coates) observes of the earlier versions "But in other ways I find the other (earlier) books less satisfactory. One is the slight lack of Jane Austen's wit. Another is what I would call the tempo of the writing. The original fragment is a leisurely opening; it is the start of a long book, not a short one. Yet it comprises about half of Mr. Oulton's book and almost half of the Browns' book. I find this is a pity."

Similar comments could be made on the later versions. Not only does John Coates attempt to remedy these defects in his version, but he also had the courage to revise the original fragment as Jane Austen surely would have done, had she subsequently decided to complete it. I would rate John Coates' version as highly as Merryn Williams'.
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on 31 January 2015
I came across this book by chance, having already read what I believed to be the full repetoire of
Jane Austen's books. An unfinished novel completed by someone else. I was sceptical, but decided
to read it, and was not disappointed. As a typical Austen yarn, it didn't hold any surprises. The ending was very predictable as it was not unlike every other Austen novel. With their high morals and rather obtuse attitudes to life, women, marriage and society of her day. The story itself was worth the trouble of completing, but could have contained many more idiosyncratic jaunts into the lives of some of the other characters. And the plot leaned too heavily on the heroine and her fate, seeming only to be concerned about her welfare, and all events simply leading to that. Although I have given it 5 stars, I feel the ending was without emotion, unrealistic, and sadly without surprise.
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on 14 November 2013
Until recently I'd never heard of this book and I chanced on it by accident! The worst thing about Jane Austen is that you're never waiting on her next novel, so this was just bliss! A gritty one, completed by another author but I have to say quite seamlessly in my opinion. As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed it and like the rest of her collection it will be read again and again. Only bought it yesterday and finished it that evening. Now waiting for another surprise secret novel...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2000
I have read many versions of The Watson's and this is by far the best! What an uncanny sense of humour! I would never have thought it was written by a man...it is completely within Jane Austen's style!
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