The Watsons
by Jane Austen
Completed by Merryn Williams
Paperback- 148 pages (30 July, 2005)
ISBN: 1904754937 

        Review by Lynn Lamy, June 11,2005

The unfinished manuscript Jane Austen left behind has long been a source of sadness for Austen lovers.  The Watson’s introduces us to some interesting characters and their difficulties, then leaves us hanging, wondering what Austen meant to happen to them.  She left some clues behind, and Merryn Williams has used these clues in her own engaging completion of The Watsons. 

 This new completion uses the Austen fragment in its entirety and takes up immediately where the fragment left off.  It is one of the more seamless transitions from the fragment that I have read.  Emma goes on to become friends with Mrs. Blake and Mr, Howard, and to even become somewhat intimate with the family at Osborne Castle.  Lord Osborne becomes interested in Emma, but Emma is interested in Mr. Howard.  In the midst of the budding romances are the little difficulties involved in Emma’s return to her childhood home, reacquainting herself with her siblings, and taking care of her invalid father.

 I was glad to see that the character of Emma was not materially altered.  She is the quiet but kind young woman Austen gave us.  Most of the other main characters, too, are much as Austen presented, and Williams adds only one character, the Mr. Purvis mentioned in the fragment.  There are times when the story seems a bit rushed, as if the action is happening too quickly, but the way the story is told keeps this from being too annoying.  There is a good balance between the dialogue and narration.  The only scene that seemed discordant to me is when Lady Osborne becomes abruptly rude with Emma.  The Robert Watsons are suitably ill tempered after the death of Mr. Watson, treating the sisters with contempt, just as you would expect.  Elizabeth grows from being a maudlin spinster to a woman with hope, and the presence of her sister Emma seems to be the catalyst for this change.

 I was a little disappointed that Lord Osborne is turned into more of a coxcomb and fop than I would have thought him, not even condescending to propose marriage in person, but the rest of the ending is quite satisfactory.  Mr. Howard finds a means of supporting himself and his sister’s family without the patronage of Lady Osborne, and is sufficiently humble when presenting his suit to Emma.

We will never have the perfect completion of The Watsons, for we can never have Austen’s completion.  But this completion is particularly gratifying.

        Review by Linda Waldemar,  June 14, 2005
  The first five chapters of this short novel are Jane Austen's fragment intact. The remaining chapters are a fleshing out of the ending that JA's family said that she intended.

Most of the authors who have completed this fragment in the past, have made the story their own. Some have changed the initial plot, all have added characters. This author does not. We do briefly meet Sam and Penelope Watson and Purvis, who were mentioned by never brought on stage by JA.

Austen's characters seem to follow naturally from her start. Elizabeth is warm-hearted and sociable; Margaret is peevish and constantly compalining. When we finally meet Penelope, she is as unpleasant as we expect from the fragment. Robert and Jane Watson seem to care only for the material things of life and are not very happy to be saddled with 4 unmarried sisters. Mr Howard is very pleasant and very honorable. The only change in character that I noticed was that of Lord Osborne. JA has him quiet and socially awkward, but I did not find him to be stupid as he is portrayed in this completion.

The plot involves getting the characters to the ends that JA intended. It has the requisite happy ending for all who deserve it. I found this completion to be a very pleasant read and recommend it.