Title: The Watsons & Emma Watson
Author: Jane Austen and Joan Aiken
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.