Hardcover Reprint edition (June 1973)
Greenwood Publishing Group; ISBN: 0837165989
Hardcover (May 1973)
Greenwood Press, London; ISBN: 0837165989
I loved it!! This is a well written story with entertaining, well developed characters. There is an ample supply of wit and humor as well. The style is quite similar to JA's. The author takes JA's characters and makes them his own. The blurb on the dust jacket says that JA admirers will "find themselves wondering where the original fragment ends and Mr. Coates' contribution begins". Although I had read the fragment only a few days before, I felt this way.
While this is not Jane Austen, I think that John Coates has done a good job of borrowing from her style and characterizations. The Watsons is an impoverished, though genteel, family consisting of the following. Mr. Watson, a sickly and sad clergyman who is still, after 12 years, grieving for his deceased wife. He has four very handsome, unmarried daughters and two sons. Elizabeth, 29, the eldest is very pleasant and practical and runs the household (she reminds me of Elinor Dashwood). Robert is a lawyer who is married to an unpleasant lady (the author says that she is like Mrs. Elton) who had 6000 pounds. They live in a another town. Samuel is a surgeon, sensible and handsome and in love with an eligible young lady of the neighborhood. He also lives in another town. Penelope, 24, is beautiful, lively, witty and always teasing. Margaret is pouty and selfish. Emily (JA called her Emma), 20, is the heroine and was raised by a rich uncle and aunt. The uncle died two years before and the aunt recently remarried requiring that Emily return to her family. (Emily and Penelope together are somewhat like Elizabeth Bennet)
There are other good characters who seem to have benefited from the author's acquaintance with JA's works. Lord Osborne is a rich, independent young man of five and twenty and the principal landowner of the neighborhood. He is described as tall and a fine young man. We meet him, initially, at a ball where he does not dance and is somewhat offensive to Emily. He is immediately attracted to her and, as the novel progresses, his disposition improves. Also, he is extremely honorable (sound familiar?). Tom Musgrave is a young man of good fortune, quite independent, and remarkably agreeable who has a tendency to trifle with the hearts of the young ladies thereabouts (Henry Crawford with a touch of John Thorpe). Lady Osborne, the lord's mother, is a very entertaining character. However, I did not feel that Mr. Howard was well developed.
The story progresses much like a JA novel and ends happily for the deserving characters.
At the end of the book is an "Advertisement by the Author". In it, he says:
There are two sorts of Janeites. To the first Jane Austen is above criticism of any kind and even her fragments are sacrosanct. Neither this note, nor the preceding story, is meant for them. But there is, I hope, a second category of admirers. I meant those whose delight in her books is equaled by their regret that her books are so few. For these, and for those who aren't Janeites at all, I have written this note and what I am the first to admit is a poor substitute for the book we might have had. He goes on the explain his rationale for the characters and the completion as it stands.I liked this book very well indeed. I would like to own it, but not at the cost of $59.75 + s/h. I also think that this could make a very entertaining adaptation.
A friend of mine and I read it. We did not like who Emma marries and a lot of other things. My mother started reading it but gave up because it was not good!
The summary on the back cover was quite silly and misleading, "... the kisses of the arrogant yet undeniably attractive Lord Osborne warmed her to the danger point..." hmph.
Mr Coates changed Emma Watson's name to Emily. I imagine that was to avoid confusion JA's more famous Emma. I found the opening chapters somewhat jarring as I didn't find the changes made to the original either neccesary or an improvement. However, once on his own I felt he began to have more fun. Each of the 4 sisters had distinct personalities. Penelope was particularily amusing. The writing was light hearted and most of the characters believable.
I did not care as much for the ending. It wasn't that the heroine was matched to the wrong hero so much as that that hero was underdeveloped. The author in his notes afterward states his belief that "worthiness is difficult to depict at length without dullness". I'm afraid his uncertainty in dealing with Mr. Howard led him to keep him off stage too much.
Overall I was quite pleased with the novel. It's not Jane Austen, but then I'm still looking for another author who can compare. This one managed to be amusing and sustain my interest for 308 pages. It was definately worth the read.
I'd love to hear the opinions of anyone else who has been fortunate enough to find this little gem. Imitation ivory perhaps but costume jewelry has a place too.
That might be the one by John Coates? He did change the heroine's name to Emily, and altered the character of one of her sisters. I've read it and enjoyed it!
The first MS of my version came to over 160,000 words. This is longer than most English publishers favour these days. Even when I had cut an entire chapter about Mr Jones in London, the MS was still overlong. So I then pruned the original fragment and the completion impartially--though not, I admit, with the same easy conscience.-- Advertisement by the Author, after the last chapter
I'm thoroughly impressed with the plot integrity. Every character's motivations make sense. At least, I didn't find any flaws during my one reading so far. If anything, the causes and effects are too clear. For example, the matter of who marries Lord Osborne is so well foreshadowed that the only surprise is how, even for someone like myself who's not much good at predicting plot twists.
It's also very funny. I laughed out loud about as often as I do when reading P&P. That's not meant as a direct comparison, though, because JA's work is in a sense subtler and more distilled, and it's taken me several rereads to pick up on (say) 97% of the humour in P&P, whereas I'm confident of not having missed much in The Watsons. (Is there a glycaemic index for literature?) Nevertheless, JC's writing style is closely modelled on JA's, and the retort at the end of chapter 9 is an absolute gem.
I won't try to draw a lot of likenesses between characters in The Watsons and characters in JA's completed novels,
because JC succeeded in his aim of differentiating them:
...my own requirements for a book in which both characters and incidents were to be fresh, and not pale imitations of characters and incidents that occurred in existing Jane Austen books. ...
I feel a little guilty about [Mr Howard] as I am certain I haven't done him justice. But he threatened to develop either into an Edmund Bertram in one direction, or an Edward Ferrars in the other.-- Advertisement by the Author
On the positive side, JC did ample justice to other central characters such as Penelope Watson, who could very loosely be called a female version of Henry Tilney. Which is no bad thing. :-)