Emma Watson
by Joan Aiken

ISBN: 0312145934 

Hardcover - 221 pages ( 1September 1996) 
ISBN: 0312145934

Hardcover - 221 pages (23 May, 1996) 
Orion; ISBN: 0575062711

        Review by Linda Waldemar,  December 8, 1997
 I found this book to be quite okay although Jane Austen it most definitely is not!!

The author is pretty safe here because JA only barely introduced the characters before abandoning the project.  So, the Watsons, Osbornes, Edwards' really are Aiken's characters. And, I think that she does develop them quite completely.  She does mostly follow JA's start; Emma is sensible, Elizabeth is hard-working and good-hearted, Margaret is shrewish, Robert is cold and calculating, Jane is selfish and grasping.

The plot is okay; quite busy and contains actions that I do not think that we would ever see in an Austen novel; illicit love affairs, marriage without familial approbation and horse-racing to name a few.  There are also tragedies, but it does have a happy ending.  The ending, however, is very abrupt.  There is a very short postscript that tells what happens to each couple.  In several places, she borrows lines from one or the other of JA's novels.  That is okay with me; JA's words are always welcome!

I would recommend that you give this book a try.  It is pretty simple and is a quick read.

        Review by Lynn Lamy, February 12, 1998
I began reading this completion of Jane Austen's fragment with all the eagerness I usually have when starting a continuation of The Watsons.  Even after reading the critic's praise of Aiken's book Eliza's Daughter, which I hated, on the dust jacket, I was still open minded.  In the end I was rather disappointed.  It wasn't awful, but nor could I say it was delightful.  It was just another case of the sequel that tried to do too much.

I didn't care too much for this characterization of Emma Watson.  She came off as sharp and shrewish, with few redeeming softening qualities.  Just before her father dies, Emma meets a navy captain through her friend Mrs. Blake (in this version Mr. Howard's sister is not a widow but a navy wife).  After this first meeting, Emma is quite taken with Captain Freemantle (I wasn't, I thought he talked way too much, about very little, to someone he had just met).  The Captain and Mrs. Blake come to spend an evening with Mr. Watson, who likes Captain Freemantle immensely.  This meeting confirms Emma's opinion of the captain as well.

The day after this meeting Mr. Watson dies (Emma is blamed for his death, by the way) and Emma is left penniless.  She is sent to Croyden to live with Robert and Jane Watson, where she becomes governess to their little girl, who is a horrid child.  From there the story gets a little disjointed.  Emma's Aunt Turner comes back from Ireland (after her brute of a husband has gambled away all her money and shot himself in the head) so Emma ends up living with her in Epsom where she takes in pianoforte students in order to make ends meet.

Emma gets a letter from Captain Freemantle telling her he loves her, and when he finally comes back, she marries him.

I just couldn't warm to this Emma, I couldn't like Captain Freemantle, and this soured me for the ending.  If you should happen across this book, by all means try it, but I cannot in good conscience recommend that you buy it.

        Review by Terry Rillera, May 20, 1998
How badly did this sequel suck?  I immediately dug up The Watsons by John Coates and curled up with it to make me feel better.  Not only did Aiken's sequel miss the nuance, the irony, the warmth of JA (not to mention the heft -- you couldn't curl up with this book, you breezed through it standing up on a bus while commuting), she 86'ed the most charming scene in the whole fragment -- Emma standing up to dance with a young boy out of a conflict of anger, pity, sudden affection and pride. Hated it.  Not as much as I hated Emma Tennant's attempts at sequels, but still hated it.

        Review by Yvette, 7 July, 1998
This short paragraph is at the end of The Watsons in Jane Austen’s Sanditon and Other Stories   (Everyman’s Library, New York):

From the second edition of the Memoir, 1871, p. 364.

When the author’s sister, Cassandra, showed the manuscript of this work to some of her nieces, she also told them something of the intended story; for with this dear sister - though, I believe, with no one else - Jane seems to have talked freely of any work she might have in hand. Mr. Watson was soon to die; and Emma to become dependent for a home on her narrow-minded sister-in-law and brother. She was to decline an offer of marriage from Lord Osborne, and much of the interest of the tale was to arise from Lady Osborne’s love for Mr. Howard, and his counter affection for Emma, whom he was finally to marry.

Although Joan Aiken does not really follow the "instructions" left by Jane Austen through her sister Cassandra, I found Emma Watson quite enjoyable to read. Emma Watson is a likeable character who shows much more sense than her siblings. She was adopted by her rich aunt after the death of her mother, but returns home to her family after her aunt’s remarriage.

Emma Watson begins approximately where Jane Austen’s novel fragment finishes, but recapitulates enough of the previous events so that the reader who is unfamiliar with Jane Austen’s The Watsons will not be lost and confused.

We meet all of Emma's siblings soon after the story begins. The characterizations of Emma’s siblings ring true. Her elder brother Robert and his wife Jane are as snobbish as ever, her elder sisters Penelope and Margaret are selfish and scheming, another elder brother, Sam, is amiable, and her eldest sister, Elizabeth, is generally pleasant but a little compliant.

Life continues agreeably for Emma. She has some interesting adventures and adjusts well to her new life with her family. However, her life is in turmoil again when Mr. Watson, Emma's ailing father, dies. She is forced to rely on the hospitality of her narrow-minded brother, Robert. Reduced to teaching music to her spoiled little niece, she seems to be trapped in a perpetual state of dependency since she has no way of earning money.

In the meantime, Emma has barely heard any news of her beloved aunt. Her aunt's new husband is known to be a great gambler and Emma is sure that all is not well with them.

The characters introduced by Jane Austen are developed in this novel. I had a bit of trouble in believing that Miss Osborne (a noble neighbour of the Watsons) would turn out to be such an agreeable acquaintance to Emma, and that Mr. Howard (whom Emma is initially attracted to) would lack the integrity and courage required to stand up to the intimidating Lady Osborne (Miss Osborne's mother). I was also surprised at Miss Osborne’s nonchalant reaction to the revelation of the secret concerning her late father’s imprudence. Unfortunately, the young Lord Osborne’s suit to Emma (quite apparent in Jane Austen’s fragment) was not followed through.

By the end of the story, most people are either married or soon-to-be married. However, I was unsatisfied with Emma’s choice of husband since I did not believe that she could have formed a sincere attachment after so short an acquaintance with him.

Otherwise, the story was quite satisfying and entertaining. I appreciated the introduction of Emma’s lost aunt, and thought it was a very good idea for Mr. Watson’s sermons to be successfully published. The gallant Tom Musgrave has a few interesting and unexpected twists of fate and, by the story’s conclusion, all the deserving characters are rewarded with happiness.

        Written by Barbara (8/29/99 10:50 p.m.)
I have been rereading Tthe Watsons, and enjoying it.

I also happened to see Joan Aiken's continuation of this story called Emma Watson at the library the other day, so I got that too. It seems that she "rewrote" the fragment that was left by JA before continuing with her own part. I haven't gotten into her book too much yet, but I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why she did such a thing.

        Written by Caroline (8/30/99 1:56 p.m.)
I bought the hardback version of Emma Watson on the assumption that it, like Sanditon, would start with JA's fragment. It doesn't. I read the book. I won't read it again. I'd rather read Marie Dobbs for the fourth time.

        Written by Maureen (12/30/2004 1:46 p.m.)
Well, I picked this up with some trepidation (spelling?) after reading several other Joan Aiken novels. (Not JA-related) I confess that I have not read the original, so I'm not sure what parts were JA's and what parts were Ms. Aiken's. All in all, I thought it was a very enjoyable read, but certainly NOT our dear JA. She gave much more internal dialogue than JA would. There were also some things that NEVER would have been in JA's version. (Aunt Maria horse-racing?) I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been a novel in its own right.

I found the references to other JA works and her life somewhat laughable. White soup, dedicating a book to the Prince of Wales. Captain Fremantle's ship is the Laconia. Then there is a direct quote from Persuasion. "Admirals are always the best tenants you know, for they are naturally so neat and orderly." Amusing, but it made it harder for me to take the book seriously.

I don't think it will be on my all-time favorites list, but it was interesting and well written. I just wish that it was totally un-JA related. It would have made it much more enjoyable.