Posted by Linda on May 27, 1997 at 15:16:18:
I apologize for the long length of this post, but I needed all these words to express my feelings about this book.
The Watsons Jane Austen's fragment continued and completed by John Coates. Available, by special order, from Amazon.com at $59.75; ISBN 0837165989.
I loved it!! This is a well written story with entertaining, well developed characters. There is an ample supply of wit and humor as well. The style is quite similar to JA's. The author takes JA's characters and makes them his own. The blurb on the dust jacket says that JA admirers will "find themselves wondering where the original fragment ends and Mr. Coates' contribution begins". Although I had read the fragment only a few days before, I felt this way.
While this is not Jane Austen, I think that John Coates has done a good job of borrowing from her style and characterizations.
The Watsons is an impoverished, though genteel, family consisting of the following.
Mr. Watson, a sickly and sad clergyman who is still, after 12 years, grieving for his deceased wife. He has four very handsome, unmarried daughters and two sons.
Elizabeth, 29, the eldest is very pleasant and practical and runs the household (she reminds me of Elinor Dashwood).
Robert is a lawyer who is married to an unpleasant lady (the author says that she is like Mrs. Elton) who had 6000 pounds. They live in a another town.
Samuel is a surgeon, sensible and handsome and in love with an eligible young lady of the negihborhood. He also lives in another town.
Penelope, 24, is beautiful, lively, witty and always teasing.
Margaret is pouty and selfish.
Emily (JA called her Emma), 20, is the heroine and was raised by a rich uncle and aunt. The uncle died two years before and the aunt recently remarried requiring that Emily return to her family. (Emily and Penelope together are somewhat like Elizabeth Bennet)
There are other good characters who seem to have benefitted from the author's acquaintance with JA's works.
Lord Osborne is a rich, independent young man of five and twenty and the principal landowner of the neighborhood. He is described as tall and a fine young man. We meet him, initially, at a ball where he does not dance and is somewhat offensive to Emily. He is immediately attracted to her and, as the novel progresses, his disposition improves. Also, he is extremely honorable (sound familiar?).
Tom Musgrave is a young man of good fortune, quite independent, and remarkably agreeable who has a tendency to trifle with the hearts of the young ladies thereabouts (Henry Crawford with a touch of John Thorpe).
Lady Osborne, the lord's mother, is a very entertaining character. However, I did not feel that Mr. Howard was well developed.
The story progresses much like a JA novel and ends happily for the deserving characters.
At the end of the book is an "Advertisement by the Author". In it, he says:
There are two sorts of Janeites. To the first Jane Austen is above criticism of any kind and even her fragments are sacrosanct. Neither this note, nor the preceding story, is meant for them.
But there is, I hope, a second category of admirers. I meant those whose delight in her books is equalled by their regret that her books are so few. For these, and for those who aren't Janeites at all, I have written this note and what I am the first to admit is a poor substitue for the book we might have had.
He goes on the explain his rationale for the characters and the completion as it stands.
I liked this book very well indeed. I would like to own it, but not at the cost of $59.75 + s/h. I also think that this could make a very entertaining adaption.
Thanks for bearing with this long post.