"Perfect Happiness in Highbury: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Emma"
If you didn't know Jane Austen wrote a sequel to Emma, that's because she didn't. This sequel was written by Rachel Billington. The story opens a year after Emma's marriage to Mr. Knightley with the couple still living at Hartfield with Mr. Woodhouse. If you can get past the fact that this book does not follow Austen's writing style and voice then you might enjoy it. Quite frankly, it took me a while to get into it and I found myself being quite negative about many things.
In the first few chapters Emma does not appear to be the headstrong opinionated young woman I remember but a married woman living in fear of her husband's disappointment. She gripes to herself about Knightley's lack of "openness" but keeps harmful secrets of her own that lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings for both. This Emma is self-absorbed even with her closet friend Mrs. Weston and her true love Mr. Knightley. The reader is told repeatedly about Emma's negative traits which are obvious through her current actions and choice of words.
And oh, my dear, Mr. Knightley (who is number two only to Mr. Darcy) is not the confident business man who adores his wife. For three quarters of the novel I felt the author had taken away Mr. Knightley's charm and by the end had turned him into a jealous fool. Although I will admit that by the end he was somewhat redeemed.
Many entertaining events occur in this novel from pregnancies, deaths, vandalism, bankruptcy, marriages and of course a ball. We see the return of many favorite characters like Frank Churchill, Mrs Weston and Miss Bates; although poor Jane Fairfax has an untimely end. When Emma is in London for the first time assisting her sister with their large family and preparing them for a big move, she is introduced to new friends -- Dugobair Tidmarsh, a vicar, and his lively step mother, Philomena. Both of them are interesting characters and are easy to love.
Emma & Knightley has genuine sentimental moments -- an intimate scene between two old friends, Miss Bates and Mr. Woodhouse, sharing the loss of two loved ones made me teary. "Such a wealth and depth of sorrow was shared and exchanged between these two that the others could not presume to enter it." Quite frankly, I fell completely in love with Miss Bates and the connection between her and Mr. Woodhouse.
For anyone who hasn't read Jane Austen's Emma, it isn't necessary to do so before reading this book as there is quite a bit of storyline recapping and updating of current events and characters along he way. I'm sure any fan of the story of Emma would greatly appreciate the continuing antics of Highbury society.
Emma & Knightley is available from Amazon.com.
Emma & Knightley is available from Amazon.ca.
M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada. If you are going to find this eclectic reader and writer anywhere it is probably at her computer. For more information visit her official website.