The Watsons Paperback – 14 May 2005
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Irresistible! -- You Magazine
One of the more seamless transitions from Austen's uncompleted novel; this completion is particularly gratifying -- The Republic of Pemberley, Australia
True to the work of Jane Austen... the story is gentle and it provides a very enjoyable reading experience -- The Jane Austen Society, UK
We enjoyed it and are selling it! -- The Jane Austen House Museum, Winchester UK
About the Author
Jane Austen, England's first major female novelist, wrote and set her novels during the Regency period, when George III was too mad, and his son the Prince, who admired Austen's novels, too young to rule the country. Her six novels are best loved for their irony and perfection of form.Jane Austen perfected the English novel of the previous century in much the same way that Henry James perfected the Victorian novel. She never married and died in 1817 at age 41. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
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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Jane Austen's books. An unfinished novel completed by someone else.Read more