Paperback - 256 pages Reprint edition (May 1997)
St. Martin's Press; ISBN: 031215707X
Audio Cassette unabridged edition (December 1998)
Isis Audio; ISBN: 1856955273
Paperback - 252
pages ( 5 September,
Paperback - 252 pages 0 edition (June 7, 2002)
St. Martin's Press; ISBN: 031215707X
Audio Cassette unabridged edition (September 1997)
Isis Audio; ISBN: 1856955273
I was in the public library a couple of weeks ago and ran across Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken. The subtitle is Jane Austen's EMMA, through another's eyes. But it is a bit of a prequel as it begins when Jane and Emma are six years old.
It is not a very good book, but it is also not very bad. There are a number of inconsistencies with Austen's novel, but I found the perspective interesting and enjoyed it. I would give it about the the same rating as Darcy's Story, a recent allusion to Pride and Prejudice narrated from Mr. Darcy's point of view.
Emma is written as a selfish, self-centered, snobbish, insincere, envious, often unkind, child - and not a much better adult, either, until she falls in love with Mr. Knightley. Jane is very remarkable and kind, but is alway made to feel inferior to Emma during their early childhood. The book also describes Jane's life with her guardians, the Campbells, whom she lives with from ages eight through twenty-one. She is portrayed as superior to the Campbell daughter, Rachel, in every way; beauty, accomplishments, personality. Aiken gives Jane a lingering crush on Mr. Knightley and an active love for Rachel's husband, Mr. Dixon, vindicating Emma's fantastic suspicions in the original novel.
Frank Churchill first
becomes attracted to Jane because he feels that
their situations are similar; both have been removed from their loved
to be raised by others. Frank is not written as self-centered nor
but as somewhat insecure. He uses charm and ease of address to make
acceptable to his adopted parents, all their acquaintances and everyone
that he meets. Frank talks her into the secret engagement at a very
period in her life. She finally comes to love him after he has
her through her troubles and has shown her a great deal of love and
I must confess it totally renewed my interest in the Jane/Frank story, after I had watched E2 too many times- which doesn't really give that part as much coverage. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a novel in itself. I thought it interesting that Aiken seems to think Jane extremely reluctant to enter into the secret engagement, also that Jane doesn't appear to really love Frank yet - I had always assumed that she must have!
And an even more striking thing, I thought, was that Aiken shows Jane really falling in love with Mr. Dixon and FC noticed it himself, and yet he still taunts her with talking about it with Emma very cruelly! I had always thought that FC had made the story up himself - and that FC and JF had both been well acquainted with Dixon, and he had helped them form the engagement! I did not think that Frank could be so cruel for it to be true!
Emma herself doesn't
appear quite right, I'm not sure what it is, but
in the first part of the book (the more fictional part of their
etc.) I thought her character did not seem quite correct with Emma. If
anyone else has read this, I would be excessively delighted to hear
I didn't like the way Emma was depicted in Jane Fairfax either. She was too unsympathetic. But I guess we're seeing her through the eyes of someone who doesn't like her.
I did enjoy the part about Frank passing notes and small gifts to Jane. So sweet.
This book does a very
good job of detailing Jane's background and feelings
in a very credible way, although Emma does suffer from it (she's pretty
much a snob). The story of the Campbells and Dixons is also well
as is why Jane consents to the secret engagement.
My only major problem with this book (aside from artistic issues) is that it seems to hate Emma. While I know she does hit people the wrong way, I feel with her, both her follies and triumphs. That's why I'd like to take an opportunity to bash the pony-riding scene and the fair scene. In both of these, Emma behaves in a completely, transparently shallow manner that I do not see in the original novel. The first might be excused by saying that Emma was very young, but pretending to be hurt is not something I would expect of her. The fair, where she brazenly acts like a hypocrite and firmly rolls over Harriet, is simply not within my interpretation. At this point in the novel, Emma is beginning to become aware of her faults, and such a open display of them does not suit the continuity. Not to mention that it's not in the book. However, I did appreciate the final scene with Jane and Emma. A nice touch, to have Emma write novels.
Frank Churchill was a gleam of light, both for Jane and for the book. His portrayal reminded me somewhat of Lord Peter Wimsey, in his pleasant and funny babble (especially in the proposal scene). A far cry from Andrew Davies' "dangerous, misogynistic charmer." Oh, how I loved it when he shouted "Jane!".
And that brings me to the best part of the book: Jane herself. The book perfectly captures her wonderful nature, sweet, kind, stubborn, and tormented by her powerful feelings. This fits in well with the wonderful portrayal by Olivia Williams in the ITV/A&E Emma, where luminous beauty was matched by very, very fine eyes. While her imagined relationship with the Campbells was a weaker part of the story, her falling for Mr. Matt Dixon (a cad if there ever was one) and Mr. Knightley (sniff) gives the story a feels of tragedy that made it stay with me after I read it. The robust core of the novel is how well it captures the story of heartbreak, courage, and love in a bittersweet mixture.
That's a story worth reading.
Aiken, however, is a good writer, and I think I would have enjoyed the book much more on its own merits, if I hadn't ever read Emma.
I thought so too [...it also makes Emma seem much smarter than she was, because in Aiken's version of the story, Jane really IS in love with Mr Dixon (and also with Mr Knightley!). IMO this is very much contrary to what JA implied in the novel. (snip)]. If Jane really was in love with Mr. Dixon, Frank would never have joked about it. Also, Mr. Dixon is made into a character that's more charismatic and flamboyant than Frank Curchill--this seems totally wrong to me!
I completely agree [It always seemed to me that Jane was desperately in love with Frank, and that was the only thing that could have compelled her to stray from what she knew was right.]. I was very disappointed in the whole Weymouth episode--I expected to read a detailed description of a secret, whirlwind romance. I found the whole novel to be fairly depressing and melancholy.
Overall, I do find the book engaging and enjoyable, but I think there's wonderful potential in a parrallel to Emma to both tell Jane's story and make an interesting commentary on Austen's version - but this book isn't it.
I got about halfway through it, and now I've sort of lost interest. It's hard to read about Jane Austen's characters doing and saying things without that same "spark" to the storyline and dialogue that she would have given it.
There are certain things in the novel that bother me. Since you haven't read it, I don't want to spoil it for you, but I can't help but believe that Jane Austen would never have written this particular story this way, so that is definitely putting me off of it.
I may go back and finish it, but it's really not high on my list of reading choices right now.
Unlike many of JA sequels, I really felt that this book did a great job of actually keeping our well known and loved JA characters to their true selves, while also allowing us to get to know the lesser known characters.
The novel starts during Jane Fairfax's childhood with Emma in Highbury and takes us all the way through the acknowledgement of Janes engagement to Frank Churchhill.
While reading Emma, I personally never understood why Emma and Jane Fairfax, were so cold to one another. And this novel helps us understand why it could have been. The best part is that no one is turned into a villain.
I absolutely adored this story and recomment it to any Austen enthusiast. Unlike many other JA sequels, this book is not overly risque, and I believe stays true two what JA herself might consider quite respectable.
It started out interestingly enough, and I was very much inclined to like Aiken's narrative about Jane's past in Highbury, and her relationship with the Campbells. But I started to dislike it when the plot led to Weymouth. I was fully expecting to read about a romance between Frank Churchill and Jane (and was looking forward to it, I must say), but what I found was a romance between Jane and Matt Dixon! Frank was only added in later as an after-thought. It seemed completely contrary to Jane's upright character, not only to agree to a secret engagement, but to a secret engagement with a man that she does not even love . JA would greatly disapprove! No matter how charming FC might be, JF would never have agreed to marry a man she didn't love.
The second part of the novel, which coincides with Emma , seemed a bit rushed. Aiken did not take as much time to embellish these events as she did with Jane's past. I know that this is probably because the reader is already familiar with the plot, but I cannot help thinking that more detail could have been added. There is a lot that is mysterious about Jane Fairfax in Emma .
Jane's comment at the end of the book - something to the affect that "Frank is not Mr. Knightly, but he'll do well enough" - also seems out of character. Again, Frank is being put in as an after-thought It is my firm belief that, in Emma , Jane really did love Frank throughout the entire novel. This is the reasons it is hard for her to watch him flirt with Emma, and hard for her to be secretive about the engagement. And for Jane to have been continually harboring romantic thoughts about Knightly seems a little contrived.