Posted by Lesley on September 30, 1997 at 01:35:11
I can highly recommend "A Visit to Highbury". I thought it was delightful and charming. It isn't really a sequel bc the action of the book takes place at the same time as the activities in "Emma". It iswritten by Joan Austen-Leigh. It is a series of letters between Mrs. Goddard and her sister wholives in London. It is one of the few epistolary novels that I can tolerate and actively like.Anyway, it is not as as terrible as the others seem to be and it is obvious that Austen-Leigh inherited her writing talent from the Austen side of the family!
This is a book is a pleasant read. Joan Austen-Leigh does a pretty good job of writing in the style of her famous ancestor. The story is told through a series of letters from Mrs. Goddard to her sister, Charlotte Pinkney, who lives in London.
This book is a retelling of the story of Emma. She is very faithful to the book and adds little additional perspective on the characters as Jane Austen wrote them.
Mrs. Goddard's sister lives in London and is bored with her new husband therefore begs for news and gossip. Mrs. G obliges by writing to her of all the happenings in Highbury. Most of the time, this is believable, but there are a few places that one must stretch the imagination to believe that Mrs. Goddard is privy to some incident, e.g. that Mr. Elton made an offer to Emma. Mrs. Pinkney uses the same apothecary as Mrs. John Knightly, so she gets gossip from him as well. Mr. Pinkney goes to Bath to improve his gout. While there, the Pinkneys become acquainted with Augusta Hawkins and Mr. Elton.
The author does add a couple of more characters and another love story. Charlotte Pinkney befriends a young lady from the school next door to her dwelling, who falls in love with a sailor. While in Bath, the Admiral, an old acquaintance of Mr. Pinkney's, talks about a novel that he has read and enjoyed. When asked the name of the author, he says that it is signed, "By A Lady". Mr. P finally tells his new wife that he is not very sociable because his fiancee, Fanny, died one week before their planned wedding (similar to Captain Benwick's experience in Persuasion). Another line she borrows from JA is when she repeats to her young friend, Charlotte Lucas' opinion. The girl wants to know if she should write to the sailor, although they are not engaged. Mrs. Pinkney says yes, so that they can get to know one another better. "Of course," I said smiling, "you might argue that it is better not to know too much about the person with whom you are to spend your life." After Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney get over their misunderstanding and become companions, Mrs. lets Mr. read all her letters from her sister. Mr. P then figures out that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are engaged; before it is revealed to the inhabitants of Highbury.
The story ends with
the Pinkneys and their young friend finally
to Highbury to meet all subjects that have been discussed in the
This small event puts into motion all kinds of other events, which we learn in reading Mrs. Pinkney's letters to Mrs. Goddard. We also learn a great deal of the inhabitants of Highbury, which Mrs. Goddard hears from all kinds of sources (and with great respect we hear of her evenings with Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Bates when Miss Woodhouse goes out of an evening). We see her motherly concern for Harriet Smith, how glad she is when Miss Woodhouse takes a liking to her, how distraught she is when she realizes Harriet has refused Mr. Martin. We see her gradually come to realize with Mrs. Goddard that perhaps Miss Woodhouse is not such a good influence on innocent Harriet Smith after all. Mrs. Pinkney originally drinks in all these details of a village she's never been to because of dissatisfaction in her own life, but as she comes to know the people through Mrs. Goddard's descriptions, she begins to relish every mention of them and their affairs. While all this is happening in Highbury, things are happening in Mrs. Pinkney's own life, including the growing friendship with Miss Gordon, the girl who fainted on her doorstep.
Austen-Leigh creates in Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney and Miss
Gordon are very good, and I liked the representation of Mrs.
It was a fun read, and the interest of Austen-Leigh's characters' lives
keep you interested through the whole retelling of Austen's original
I am looking forward to the "sequel" to this, Later Days at Highbury!
A Visit to Highbury
and Later Days at Highbury -Joan
Written by a relative of Austen. This set of epistolary (letter-based)
novels is centered around the adventures of Mrs. Goddard (the mistress
of the school in Highbury) and her sister. I found them quite
I also thought it was funny that so many opinions expressed by these moreremoved characters mirror so closely those found on the Emma board at RoP!
The first is a parallel to Emma. It is called Letters From Highbury, IIRC, and tells the story from Mrs. Goddard's POV, along with another story relating to Mrs. Goddard's sister. I'm less sure of the title of the sequel, but I think it is Return to Highbury and it follows the story of the Emma characters as well as those created by Austen-Leigh.
They're, IMO, a couple of the best sequels out there and I'd strongly recommend them to anyone interested in the minor characters.