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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
This review is from: Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen's Emma (Paperback)
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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