Monday, September 22, 2008

The Watsons and Emma Watson

Title: The Watsons & Emma Watson
Author: Jane Austen and Joan Aiken
Genre: Fiction
Date Finished: 13 August 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars
I received a copy of this book from a giveaway hosted by Austenprose.

Sometime between the years 1803 and 1805 Jane Austen began work on a novel, writing a draft of about seventeen thousand words before abandoning it. Unlike other works that were started and then set aside, Sense and Sensibility for example, Austen never returned to the manuscript. The fragment was inherited by her sister Cassandra after Austen's death. It was later titled The Watsons and published in 1871 by James Edward Austen-Leigh in his Memoir of Jane Austen.
With the writing of Emma Watson, Joan Aiken has undertaken the task of completing Jane Austen's fragment of a manuscript.
At only about seventeen thousand words, Austen's story was just getting off it's feet so to speak. In Austen's fragment we are introduced to the Watson family. The youngest daughter in the family, Emma, had been living with her widowed aunt for 14 years but has returned to her family after her aunt remarried. At 19, Emma is just getting to know her father and siblings. The Reverend Mr. Watson is impoverished and his health is failing. Emma's oldest brother Robert is rich and affluent, but disagreeable and is married to a woman who is conceited and greedy. Her brother, Sam is 22 and a surgeon in a nearby town and seems to be more agreeable than Robert. Emma's sisters Elizabeth, Penelope and Margaret are all still unmarried and feeling the pressure to find husbands before their father passes away and they are plunged into even more poverty.
We are also introduced to Lord Osborne and his mother and sister as well as Lord Osborne's former tutor, Mr. Howard. Both men seem to be drawn to Emma when they first meet her.

As I turned the last page of Austen's fragment and began reading Aiken's story the tone and feel of the book changed immediately.
The plot became too sensational and over the top in my opinion. There were too many deaths and too much melodrama. What would Miss Austen think?
I found myself scratching my head, wondering what had happened to the characters Austen had introduced us to. They all seemed to have been completely changed and reinvented, taking on new personalities.
It is interesting to note that Cassandra Austen did pass on to her nieces what was supposed to have happened to the characters but Joan Aiken took the story in a very different direction than even that.
This is the first time I've read a completion to one of Jane Austen's unfinished works and I really found nothing very substantial in the completion.


sue q said...

Just curious, but have you read any of Joan Aiken's other works related to Jane Austen's? Like "Jane Fairfax", for example? I've read it, and I actually enjoyed it, but I wondered if you knew whethere Austen had anything to do with that version of Emma, or if it is completely unique to Aiken.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Hi--I just found your blog. I would love it if you read and reviewed my book, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind, a Jane Austen romantic comedy. You don't have to buy it--you can request it at your library if it isn't already on order. It is through Avalon Books and it is officially out in December, but libraries should be getting it by November. Thanks!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Okay, well, oops, I just noticed that you have recently read THe Black Moth, one of my all time faves (assuming it is the novel by Georgette Heyer).

Jeanette said...

sue q and Heidi- thanks for stopping by and leaving comments!

Sue q-I have not read anything else by Joan Aiken but have heard good things about "Jane Fairfax". Other than writing "Emma" which "Jane Fairfax" was based on, Jane Austen had nothing to do with Aiken's book. My understanding is that Aiken took "Emma" and wrote it from Jane Fairfax's point of view.

Heidi- I think maybe I've come across your blog before. I remember hearing about your book before. I pretty much review everything I read now so if I can track down a copy and read it I will review it.

Esther Hopkinson said...

Have you read the other completed version of this book titled 'The Watsons'- Jane Austen and Another? I grew up with that copy and rather embarassingly didn't realise for quite a few years that it was only Austen in part. I remember really enjoying the book and it follows the planned plot as far as I know. I recently found the book on Ebay to re-read, but if you read it let me know how it compares to the Aiken version (which I have not read).

Jeanette said...

Esther-I have not read this other version. I have to admit I've only read a very small handful of Jane Austen sequels/fan fiction/whatever you want to call them. Sorry, I can't be of more help.