Paperback 378 pages (June 1999)
Hodder & Stoughton; ISBN: 0340675136
Audio Cassette unabridged edition (August 1997)
Sterling Audio Books; ISBN: 0745168981
Paperback - 378 pages (17 April, 1997)
Sceptre; ISBN: 0340675136
Audio Cassette (May 1997)
Sterling Audio, US; ISBN: 0745168981
Okay, I hated the treatment of Frank (the peanut gallery yawns and says, "Right, Kali, sure...")...she made him out to be some ineffectual, psycho-lunatic rather than the capable (the man sure can fix a pair of spectacles!), if flaky and selfish, character of Austen's creation. Billington makes John into a greedy, uninsightful apparition, and confines Mr. Knightley, for the most part, to functional muteness, simple insipidity, and intellectual ignorance. Sick-and-wrong!
I disliked her new characters and their influence on Emma (which, thank God, doesn't last), and thought some of her metaphors ridiculous (one involving Mr. Elton and a cough drop pops into my mind). While I did like her general development of Emma's character, especially re: views on children, learning, etc., it seemed that most other characters and general plot continuity (esp. re: Frank) suffered.
Mr. Knightley and Emma spend much of the story as ships passing in
night, which bugs
generally, not to mention the fact that it reminds me of the
Ripley puts Rhett and Scarlett through in her Scarlett sequel
to GWTW. In general, I thought
that Billington's and Ripley's sequels had parallel faults (are these
common traits, perhaps, the
ingredients of all unsuccessful sequels?) - everything goes down hill
when Mammy dies and
Scarlett puts off for Ireland, and when Jane croaks and Emma trots
off to London. Change of
scene and society, while it may make for explosive new possiblities
in plot development, really
screws with the authenticity of the mood.
The book was a wonderful read, in so far as 180+ year old sequels can be. First, I wish to say that I did not expect the style to be similar to that of Ms. Austen's -- so I think that may be why I was able to enjoy it more.
The character's were true to form, although many were dissatisfied with the new rendition of Frank Churchill, who falls into a temporary state of madness after the death of his beloved Jane. Frank is a bit off the wall here, but I thought it appropriate for the circumstances. Later in the novel, he becomes more like his old self. And, in one of the best scenes in the book literally throws himself at Mrs. Knightley, to the (as you can imagine) dissatisfaction of Mr. Knightley!
Yes, Emma and Knightley do the dance of discontented married folks -- always wrong about what the other is thinking, but never discussing it openly until the end of the book. I may be wrong, but I enjoyed this as well. After all, the joy that comes from the discovery is why we read such things in the first place!
New characters are introduced and are probably the thing I like least in this book. They seem quite useless to me. They never really have an impact on the main story. It almost seems as if Lady Billington just felt she must have her own voice in the story... in fact at one point she mentions a Mrs. Billington!
The character's are stretched to new limits, they try new things, and yet they are the same people we have come to love from Jane Austen's "Emma." After repeated goading by a belligerent Frank, Mr. Knightley even SINGS at the pianoforte! It does seem un-natural, but then... I would have been disappointed had the characters performed exactly the same as they had in the first book. I wanted them to change and grow -- how boring it would have been had things remained exactly the same!
These characters have much more passion that those of Jane Austen, and that is not surprising. Everyone knows that Jane's characters lacked that particular emotion in many ways. Thankfully, the subject of sex is never really referred to, however the bedroom does get used for "talking of love all through the night." And frankly, I enjoyed that thoroughly.
It was not Jane Austen's "Emma," but it was definitely the best of the lot that has been produced. Lady Billington is not a prize winning author, but I was contented to learn someone else's opinion of the future of Mr. & Mrs. Knightley.
I must say, it is my favorite of the lot by far!
Posted by Lori on June 17, 1997 at 21:50:22:
I read her review [Kali's] and with all respect intended... I completely disagreed with her. While it is definitely not the quality of Jane Austen, it is certainly the best "Emma" sequel/etc. to date. (I have read the others). It differs in that the characters have more passion than Jane originally intended. And yes, Frank is made out to be a bit of a psychopath.. but I kinda liked that twist. My advice. Read it for yourself and decide. Don't take either of us on our word, because everyone is different!
Posted by Cassandra
on June 18, 1997 at 18:51:43:
Lori-I don't know if any Austen sequel can be labeled "best", maybe lesser of evils. And I completely disagree about Billington bringing passion to the Knightley/Emma relationship. There is plenty of passion in JA, albeit between the lines. The proposal scene in particular: "Never had the exquisite sight, smell, sensation of nature, tranquil, warm, and brilliant after a storm, been more attractive to her". One of the things I disliked most about Perfect Happiness was the presentation of the Knightley marriage. In the beginning, Emma is described as if she were presiding over an old folks home. Perfect Happiness is laughable at moments, depending on your mood, -over the top.
The book is not entirely without merit, but I found myself spending the majority of my reading time waiting for the story to get better. It was longer than many of the other sequels I've read, and as one criticism of the sequels is that they are too ambitious in story considering their length, I thought the length of this particular one might allow a little more story development. In this case, it seemed to have less story development in more length.
If you come across this book in your travels, give it a try, and
that you are not alone if you
feel like giving Mrs. Knightley a swift kick in the pants!
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,
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
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.