Paperback (May 1995)
Ulverscroft Large Print Bks.; ISBN: 0708977197
Truth and Rumor, taking place twenty years after the action of Emma,
deals mainly with the
Eltons, the Martins, and their respective children. Two more created characters of Mr. John
Sharpe, the temporary vicar of Swanford, the village near Donwell Abbey, and a Dr. Daniel
Gray, a stranger to the area.
The Eltons have one child, a daughter named Francesca (nicknamed Fanny
by her school friends,
much to Mrs. Elton's horror), who is as unlike her parents as it is possible to be. She spends the
earliest years of her education at Mrs. Goddard's, where she becomes fast friends with Harriet
and Robert Martin's eldest daughter, Perdita. Even Francesca's going away to school cannot
cool their friendship, and they pick up right where they left off when Fanny comes home. The
Eltons do not much care for their daughter's association with the family at Abbey Mill Farm, but
Fanny eventually breaks away from her parents' bitterness (with some advice from John Sharpe),
and becomes a frequent visitor at the farm.
When a stranger, Dr. Gray, makes a brief visit to the area (assisting
Perdita after a fall from a hay
cart while there), rumors begin. Mr. Sharpe is suspected (in a rumor put about by Mr. Elton,
who has a grudge against Mr. Sharpe) of having seduced the Martin's second daughter (who has
gone to visit her aunt in another town). Dr. Gray is suspected of having seduced the same girl,
and even Francesca's extended trip with her mother begins to be suspect. Dr. Gray's position in
all this? He is the son of a well-liked and respected bishop whose late father left a legacy to a
Mrs. Robert Martin of Abbey Mill Farm, and he has come to see who his half-sister is. Matters
are complicated when the good doctor falls in love with Perdita, who just happens to be his
How this all resolves itself I will leave you to discover on your own.
It's not nearly as convoluted
as it sounds.
The only disappointments in this book are minor. Mrs. Goddard
is said to be still running the
school, which while not impossible, I thought a bit of a stretch. Most of the characters walk
between the villages of Highbury and Swanford; I hadn't pictured them being this close, but
perhaps this is my own ignorance. The characters Ms. Gillespie created are good; not deep, but
believable. The Eltons are bordering on bitter, but perhaps this is where 20 years together would
bring them. I liked Mr. John Sharpe and Dr. Daniel Gray, and I liked Fanny's quiet goodness.
Mrs. Elton is still quite a horror, which I liked, and Harriet is much as you would expect her to
Overall, I would suggest giving this book a try if you come across it,
and it's even worth
borrowing on interlibrary loan.
The senior Eltons are very unpleasant people. As one would expect,
they do not approve of the
friendship of their only daughter with the eldest offspring of Harriet (Smith) and Robert Martin.
Mr Elton is characterised as a malcontented and ineffectual clergyman. Augusta Hawkins Elton is
ambitious and overbearing. She is still trying, unsuccesfully, to be the leader of Highbury society
and cannot understand why no one is influenced by her. Francesca is their only child. They are
disappointed because she is a girl and because she is not remarkable in any way.
Harriet, the mother of four, is still remarkably pretty (although at
bit plumper). Robert Martin is a
successfully farmer and is devoted to his wife and family. Perdita is their eldest. She met and
became friendly with the young Elton when they were both at Mrs Goddard's school. The
Martins all love Francesca and call her Fanny.
The heroes are the Reverend John Sharpe and Dr Daniel Grey.
This story has a very light plot involving misunderstandings based on
failed rumours. There is a
slight mystery involving a stranger. The story has a happy ending when all misunderstandings are
cleared up and the young ladies end up with the men they love. The Martins remain happy and
the Eltons remain discontented.
Should you come across this book, give it a try. You may
find it slightly diverting.