Pride and Pyramids

13105035By Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb

2.5/5

Why do I have a feeling they came up with the title before the plot for this book??

After 15 years of marriage, the Darcy family are ready for an adventure. After many years of living quietly at Pemberley, Darcy is beginning to wish he could follow his father to Egypt, to search for the hidden treasure of the pharaohs. When his cousin Edward Fitzwilliam, younger brother to Col. Fitzwilliam, tells Darcy he is going on an archaeological expedition to Egypt, Darcy and Elizabeth decide to take all their children and go as well. They set off down the Nile and all seems to be going well. But their youngest daughter’s strange fascination with an Egyptian doll complicates matters, and the pharaoh’s curse may yet catch up with them.

This was actually surprisingly better than I thought it would be. It started off badly so I wasn’t inclined to keep reading, but once I pushed through it wasn’t so bad. I got confused with the Fitzwilliam brothers and was annoyed they weren’t calling Col. Fitzwilliam by his rank, and it took me a few chapters to realize they were separate characters. Once I cleared that up it was easier to like the book. The plot started off very slow and boring, but actually got ok towards the end.

The main plot deals with Edward’s obsession with finding treasure, and youngest Darcy child Meg’s obsession and (possible) possession by an ancient Egyptian figurine of a wronged princess. There’s a touch of supernatural gothic-ness to it that I enjoyed, although the supernatural elements were never explained but instead left up to the reader to decide whether they were true or not. It sounds kind of crazy to put Elizabeth and Darcy in Egypt, a place so very different from the original novel’s setting. But once I got past the jarring nature of it, it was fine. There’s always a point in this kinds of books where you have to shrug and just roll with it.

There were too many Darcy children if you ask me. 6 is too many to keep track of. Plus it’s very unlikely that a wealthy family like the Darcys would have that much interaction with their children. Children were mostly handed over to the care of governesses and tutors, and then off to school if they were boys. The Darcys certainly wouldn’t be taking their children to the museum themselves, and probably wouldn’t have taken their children travelling with them until the children were older. It’s anachronistic for Elizabeth to be teaching her children or really doing anything other than passing them off to governesses. It shows a laziness and lack of research on the authors’ part. Only one of the children is important to the plot, so the others were kind of useless and I got them mixed up a lot.

There was actually a plot to this book, which kind of shocked me. And it didn’t have anything to do with ripping off the original! It was almost a supernatural mystery. Youngest Darcy Meg seems to be drawn to a certain spot in the desert, aided by her creepy, possibly sentient Egyptian doll. As they search for the treasure, it becomes more and more obvious that something unusual is happening, and people begin to wonder if it could be the curse of the pharaohs coming to claim more victims. Although not a very “Jane Austen” plot, it was at the very least engaging and interesting. Implausible, but at least I wasn’t bored.

I thought the Wickham subplot was totally wasted, and need not have been there at all. The Wickhams follow the Darcys to Egypt in hopes of getting the treasure for themselves. When they were first introduced as being part of the story I thought, oh goody, Wickham is going to cause all sorts of trouble. But they were hardly in the story and ended up only showing up at the end. It felt like they were shoehorned in there. It would have been better to either give them a bigger role, or cut them out completely.

There were a few good original characters. Edward Fitzwilliam was alright, once I figured out he was a separate person from Col. Richard Fitzwilliam. For a while I thought the authors had just got his name wrong and it really annoyed me. I wouldn’t put it past some of these books. But I was happy to figure out he was an original character. Although I did have issue with the fact that Col. Fitzwilliam specifically states in P&P that he doesn’t have enough money to marry without marrying an heiress, and he has to work in the army, and yet his younger brother seems to have money to throw at an archaeological expedition? As a younger brother, who would not inherit, Edward would have to find a profession same as his other brother, while the eldest brother inherited the family fortune. It seems unlikely to me that he would have that kind of money when the middle brother does not.

I enjoyed original character Sophie Lucas, younger sister to Charlotte. She’s a sweet girl, rather quiet, who had previously been disappointed in love, and who Elizabeth decides to bring along as a companion and help with the children. The love triangle between Sophie, Edward, and the artist Paul Inkworthy was interesting without getting too annoying. It didn’t get drawn out too much, and I was satisfied with the outcome. Paul Inkworthy was not a very interesting character on his own, but he was tolerable. Although, really, calling the artist “Inkworthy”? Not a very creative name. Might as well call him “Paintman” and get it over with. Oh well.  At least he wasn’t too annoying.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. My expectations for this really were zero. So to go from zero to a two and a half isn’t bad. There were still anachronisms and bad writing galore in here, but at least the plot was engaging and the characters weren’t too annoying. The premise was pretty ridiculous, but once I started to roll with it, it was fine. That’s pretty much all there is to stay about this book: it was fine. Not great, but not bad either. Just fine.

 

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Jane Austen in Hollywood

51mCXDLFIrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ed. by Linda Troost

4/5

This book is a collection of scholarly essays focusing on movies based off Jane Austen’s works. It was published in 2002, so the two main works it focuses on is the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy), and the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, written and starred in by Emma Thompson. But certainly other essays focus on the 1996 Persuasion, the 1996 Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow,  and Clueless. The essays cover a variety of topics, including feminism, the female gaze, modernizing Jane, and others.

This book was really interesting. I especially enjoyed the essay about the physicality of Darcy and Col. Brandon. In the book, neither are really described, but in the movies, almost every scene added to the 1995 P&P was to do with Darcy and movement – Darcy fencing, Darcy swimming, Darcy riding his horse. In this way we are shown that while he dances and wears breeches, Darcy is a man. An interesting perspective, and certainly goes a long way towards seeing why Elizabeth starts to fall in love with him. We are constantly watching him watch her. In the book we only get Elizabeth’s (limited) point of view. She’s an unreliable narrator. This way, we get to see what Darcy thinks and feels about certain circumstances, get to watch him agonize as he composes the famous letter to her, get to watch him struggle to conquer his feelings through fencing.

Another great essay was about how the movie version of S&S reverses the theme of the book. In the book, sensibility, that is wild romance, is bad. Look what happens to Marianne when she gives into it. The book is the journey of Marianne becoming less sensitive, and more practical. In the movie, the focus is on Elinor. It is Elinor’s journey towards learning to open her heart up to love.  The author also claims that Willoughby and Brandon have similar arcs, and that Brandon imitates Willoughby. Willoughby brings flowers, Brandon brings flowers. Willoughby rescues in the rain, Brandon rescues in the rain. Willoughby reads poetry, Brandon reads poetry. The author says this like it’s a negative thing, but I don’t think it is. Willoughby does these things in the wrong way – outside of society’s bounds, with too much passion and not enough thought for Marianne’s reputation. Brandon, on the other hand, does it in the correct way, with just enough passion. Maybe I’m saying this because I adore Brandon and will defend him to the death. But there you go.

I also enjoyed the essay comparing the 1996 Emma with Clueless. According to the author of that essay, Clueless follows more closely with the book’s plot, especially when it comes to Cher’s voiceover. The irony of Emma comes in hearing Emma’s thoughts and their juxtaposition of how things really are. In Clueless, that juxtaposition becomes obvious in the form of a voiceover narrating what was going on. I love this movie so much so I’m glad that it’s getting some love and isn’t just dismissed as a lame teen movie. It’s so clever!

I really enjoyed this book. Some of the essays were kind of dry, but for the most part they were interesting and thought provoking. It’s academic enough that I would cite it in a paper, but accessible enough that I had no trouble reading and understanding what the authors were taking about. A good balance. I also got the book from my local library, so it’s clearly not too scholarly to understand.

However, this book was published in 2002. There have been a whole new crop of adaptations since then, not to mention adaptations like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Bride and Prejudice, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I would love to see a second volume put out focusing on these new works and comparing and contrasting them to the older works. In fact, if they’re taking submissions, I have a lot of thoughts about comparing Edward Ferrars in the 1996 and the 2008 movies. I hope they write a new volume, because I would love to read it.

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The Dashwood Sisters Tell All

519WmZ+wUOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_By Beth Pattillo

3/5

Ellen and Mimi are two sisters on a Jane Austen tour of the English country side. Their late mother sent them on it as a condition of her will, so both sisters, who have grown apart, must attend the week long tour in order to get their inheritance. All they need to do is survive a week filled with Jane Austen tour sights and lectures, and the money will be theirs. Mimi has her sights set on the handsome  and rich Ethan, and Ellen runs into an old flame. But when they discover the other part of their mother’s will – a mysterious diary that may or may not have belonged to Cassandra Austen, they aren’t sure who to trust.

Spoiler alert, this does not have to do with the Dashwood sisters, so, minus points for a bad title. The “Dashwood sisters” are actually the Dodge sisters, Ellen and Mimi. This is more of a very loose modern adaptation of the story than a direct spinoff. All the romance threads follow the same rough pattern as S&S, with Ellen/Elinor and Daniel/Edward falling in love, and the triangle between Mimi/Marianne, Ethan/Willoughby, and Tom/Col. Brandon. There’s that subplot, and then there’s also the plot with Cassandra’s diary.

Let’s start with the romance plot. It follows the source material pretty closely. Usually I’m in favour of that, but this time I’m afraid it made things rather boring. Is Ethan going to turn out to be Mimi’s prince charming? Well since he’s playing the part of Willoughby, I doubt it. There wasn’t much subtlety when it came to Ethan’s character. It’s pretty obvious he’s after Mimi’s supposed fortune. Same with Ellen and Daniel. Are they going to get together? Probably. The one thing they changed was that there was no Lucy Steele in his past. He seemed to have something to say about his ex-wife, something he wanted to confide in Ellen that she kept interrupting him for so he never quite got it out. Well that was never resolved because it’s not brought up again. The story could have used a wrench thrown into their picture perfect romance.

Secondly there’s the Cassandra diary plot. No such diary actually exists, so it was just a literary invention. Trust me, if Jane or Cassandra’s diary surfaced, we would all hear about it. I thought it was a bit presumptuous of the author to claim Jane’s heart was engaged, and that’s why she refused other offers of marriage. There’s kind of no proof of that, seeing as Cassandra burned most of her letters after her death. The code in the diaries was fairly obvious to me, but maybe I watch too many mystery shows. If it was supposed to be a crazy twist at the end that the code leads somewhere, it kind of failed. I figured it out almost right away, and I’m usually terrible at riddles.

The Formidables were a cool part of the book. But to be honest, that was more interesting than the actual plot. I would read the heck out of a book about a secret society of Austen loving ladies tracking down and finding Austen related treasures. National Treasure with a Jane Austen theme? Yes please! The mention of it felt like this was a followup sequel to that book, but as far as I can tell no such book exists. Yet another niche that needs to be filled by yours truly?

I always think it’s strange when a book modernizing an Austen plot references Austen’s works. Are we not supposed to know that sensible Ellen is Elinor and romantic and flighty Mimi is Marianne? In fact, they comment on their similarity with S&S’s characters within the story. You don’t happen to think it’s strange that your personalities, and even your names, are eerily similar to a book that your mother was obsessed with? I think it’s better, if you’re modernizing the plot, to pretend the characters have never read Jane Austen, or this is an alternate universe where Jane’s books don’t exist. You don’t hear Lizzie Bennet referencing P&P and constantly commenting about how weird it is that she’s just like a character in the book.

I also thought that the writing in both Cassandra and Jane’s diaries was very anachronistic for the late 1700s, when Jane would have been a teenager. If you’re going to write as Jane, at least make an effort. I really don’t think she would have written “Keep out, this means you Cassie” like a person today. Stuff like that always bugs me.

I enjoyed this book, for the most part. The author has written several other loose adaptations but I don’t feel the need to rush out and read them. Although it was somewhat predictable, it was still fun and light. I liked the parallels between the characters in this and S&S. The plot could have stuck closer to the original, rather than meandering into a (sort of) mystery novel, but on the whole it was a fun time.

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Dear Mr. Darcy

12698885By Amanda Grange

2/5

The events before and during Pride and Prejudice, as seen by various characters as they write letters to one another.

This book bills itself as “P&P from Mr. Darcy’s point of view”, but that’s not what it is at all. It’s letters from just about every single character, relating exactly the events in the book. It’s P&P from everyone’s point of view, including Elizabeth’s, which is bizarre because we already have P&P from Elizabeth’s point of view and it’s called… P&P. Instead of telling us what is happening behind the scenes of the story, the author instead opted to tell us the original story again, but less well written and amusing than the original. In fact, some of the letters in the original, such as Caroline’s letter to Jane telling her that Bingley is going to stay in London indefinitely, or Darcy’s famous one to Elizabeth, are reprinted here in full. Why? Why??

This book decides to start not at the beginning of P&P, but 5 years earlier when Mr. George Darcy dies. I thought this was an odd choice, as it means we don’t get to the main action of the story until half way through the book. These 5 years are very quickly skimmed through, and not given the weight of letters that the plot of P&P is given. Why start this early? Why not either start when the Bingleys and Darcy come to Netherfield, or else make the book about things that happened 5 years earlier? It seemed a bizarre choice to me.

I would have much preferred it if it were Darcy telling the story in his own words. His letters to his cousin Philip were one of the only enjoyable parts of the book, maybe because that’s what I was actually hoping for. When Darcy was actually speaking, he had lots of interesting things to say, such as how vulgar and grasping he finds Mrs. Bennet, and how he’s had to deal with her kind of mother all his life. I also liked Darcy’s letters to his sister Georginana, and hearing more about her private life through her letters to her brother and to her cousin Anne.

I didn’t mind the original characters too much. People have to write letters to someone, after all. I thought the Sothertons were interesting, as the owners of Netherfield Park who have had to leave due to debts. We hear a tiny bit about Susan Sotherton, and to be honest I would have rather heard her story in full than the rehash of P&P that this book was. Philip Darcy was neither here nor there – I guess Darcy has to write to someone. Although as far as I can tell the book never mentions Darcy having any relations on his father’s side, only the de Bourghs and the Fitzwilliams on his mother’s side. Same goes for Bingley having a mother and a large family of younger brothers and sisters. I guess it’s not ruled out by the texts but you’d think he would mention them if he had them.

Most of the letters were so short that I didn’t get a handle on the original characters at all. I assume that’s what starting the book further in the past was supposed to do, give the reader time to get to know the unfamiliar characters. But because most of the letters were a page or so in length, and many were shorter, I never really get a sense of who Philip Darcy or Susan Sotherton is.

One exchange I enjoyed was that between Mary Bennet and Lucy Sotherton. Mary’s observations about how everyone thinks her very wise and learned were a scream. She and Lucy are in the “Society for Educated Ladies”, and hold themselves above the rest of the world. Considering how we know everyone thinks of Mary in P&P, it’s pretty funny what she thinks of herself. There’s also a hint that she would have accepted Mr. Collins if he’d asked her, which I often think would have been a good idea. Mrs. Bennet, if she had had any sense, would have steered him away from Elizabeth, who would never accept him, and towards Mary. They could have read Fordyce’s sermons to each other before bed.

This book suffered from the same problem I have with all epistolary and journal based books. Who has time, in the middle of the action, to sit down and write it all down?? Would Elizabeth really be confiding that Darcy proposed to her to a friend before she confides it in her own sister? Is Georgiana really writing – with ink and a quill – in a bumpy carriage? I think not. The format is just so constricting. The language was anachronistic, but I supposed that can’t be helped. Better than trying to fake a “Jane voice” I guess.

There was one thing that really bugs me, and just proves that this author didn’t do her homework: a man would never never write to a woman he was not related to. To do so was to announce to the world that you were engaged (See: Elinor thinking Marianne and Willoughby are engaged because they are exchanging letters). There is no way Darcy would ask Bingley to write to Georgiana. There is no way he would have written directly to Caroline Bingley. The whole point of him giving that long letter to Elizabeth is that it’s kind of a scandalous think to do in itself. Even in letter writing, there were rules of society and propriety that must be followed.

Another decent premise squandered. Why do authors keep doing this? They seem to come up with a perfectly good premise for the book, and then lose their heads when they start to write. It is most disappointing. Don’t be fooled, this is no a retelling of P&P. This is just a straight telling, and Jane wrote it better.

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Among the Janeites: a Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom

17196514By Deborah Yaffe

4/5

Author Deborah Yaffe asks herself an important question: who are these strange people that love an obscure English author who died 200 years ago? Why do they love her works so much? Does it have anything to do with Colin Firth in a wet shirt? The answer is more complicated than you would expect. Lovers of Jane Austen – Janeites – are men and women, young and old, rich and middle class. They research the historical-cultural world of Jane’s books, and they own “I ❤ Mr. Darcy” shirts. They are legion and they are growing.

This was a fun book to read. It’s half serious study of a group of fans, and half memoir of the author’s own journey into the dark night of the Janeite soul. As an admirer herself, Yaffe is not a disinterested observer in her subjects. She understands their love and is able to connect with them on a deeper level. I enjoyed the deviations into preparing for the annual JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) ball as much as the more in-depth discussions of Chawton house and English military history.

I was relieved that she didn’t go into too much detail about who Jane was and what her books are like. I tend to find that these kind of fan-related books waste far too much time explaining the plot of, say, Pride and Prejudice, and I always feel it’s unnecessary. After all, would I be reading this book if I didn’t know who Jane Austen was? Not very likely. Thankfully, Yaffe doesn’t fall into this trap. She mentions, she summarizes, but she doesn’t waste page space on carefully explaining who Elizabeth Bennet is.

Along the way, Yaffe visits as many of Jane’s former homes as she can, including Bath, Steventon, and Chawton House. She describes not only the houses, but her emotions on seeing them, and the discussions going on around her with the other women on her tour. I’ve been to Bath, but it makes me badly want to go to other places where Jane lived. That tour sounds great. Nothing sounds more fun than touring England with a bunch of lit nerds who want to talk about Jane Austen constantly.

And of course I was delighted to recognize mentions of “fanfiction” works I have read, such as Pamela Aiden’s stellar Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series (reviewed here). There’s also an interesting discussion of the “wet-shirt Darcy” type of fans, who became interested because of the very talented and very attractive Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC miniseries. I found the history of the fans particularly interesting, starting with writing groups and individuals and progressing to Listservs, Usenet sites, and ultimately to Pemberley.com a website still running today. It’s easier than ever for Janeites to connect with each other and discuss their favorite author. There’s even a debate about whether Jane Austen erotica should be written, with Yaffe speaking to authors on both sides of the argument.

This was a great summary of Jane in popular culture. She could have gone deeper into Jane’s influence in academia, but I realize this is a book for general audiences, and not everyone is interested in that kind of nitty gritty. I enjoyed this book, I recognized a lot of myself in it, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is even mildly interested in Jane Austen. It’s certainly given me new ideas of new avenues to take my Jane obsession (JASNA ball in a regency dress and corset, here I co

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The Phantom of Pemberley

phantomBy Regina Jeffers

2/5

Strange things have been happening at Pemberley. Curious sounds, mysterious goings on in nearby Lambton, and a servant that nobody seems to be able to identify. The Darcys are taking it in stride, and have even invited Elizabeth’s sister Lydia to stay with them for a bit. It is only when Lady Catherine appears, bringing along her daughter Anne and Anne’s companion Mrs. Jenkinson, that Darcy and Elizabeth begin to suspect that they made a mistake when inviting Lydia to stay with them. When a spell of bad weather forces Pemberley to play host to several strangers, the mysterious instances increase. It isn’t until a servant is murdered that things start to get serious. Can Darcy and Elizabeth solve the mystery of Pemberley’s Phantom and save their family reputation before it’s too late?

This book was billed as Elizabeth and Darcy as a “husband-and-wife detective team who must solve the mystery at Pemberley and catch the murderer”. So I was ready for some Sherlock-ing. I was disappointed. They are definitely not a “husband and wife detective team”. Darcy tries, and mostly fails, to catch the killer while Elizabeth tries to keep all the guests at Pemberley happy. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with her doing that. Just don’t tell me it’s going to be a detective story when it’s not.

This book was ok. It could have been better, but I’ve certainly read worse. The idea of Pemberley being haunted could have been an opportunity for all kinds of gothic goodness. Instead, I found it convoluted and easy to guess what was happening. By midway through the book, I had figured out roughly who the ‘phantom’ was, and from there on in it was a lot less spooky. I think the book’s downfall was showing the perspective of the phantom. If they had left it to spooky things happening, and Darcy and Elizabeth trying to figure things out, it would have been better. It broke the cardinal rule of horror – never show the monster. Once you do, it’s way less scary than the imagination can conjure up. All I can say is, if you don’t want to reader to figure out who the killer is, don’t have chapters from their point of view.

I enjoyed the expansion of Anne’s character. She has almost no personality and hardly any ‘screen time’ in the original so it was nice to see her expanding and starting to stand up to her overbearing mother. However, I found the subplot with her suiters to be somewhat random. That could be its own whole story but instead it gets shoved into the second half of this one, and her suiters aren’t really given too much time to distinguish themselves. They fall in the Wickham camp of seduction for money, and aren’t very interesting. What a waste of a subplot.

I also thought Georgiana’s romance with Col. Fitzwilliam comes out of nowhere. I have changed my stance on the two of them marrying, as you know. At first I thought it was gross and weird but on second thought it would probably be a good match for her. So it’s not that I mind the two of them getting together. It’s just that it happens randomly in the last few chapters of the book, with almost no preamble. It’s called foreshadowing, people! Learn to love it.

It was also nice to see Lydia’s character being expanded a little bit. She’s still herself – spoiled, impulsive, shallow. She doesn’t do a huge 180. But she does grow a little and expand into new areas. However, I thought it was a little improbable that she was tell Lizzy that Wickham had been hitting her, but not tell her about other things, that become crucial to the plot later. You’d think that would be helpful information.

Everyone seems to deal with the murders quite calmly. I guess there’s nothing they can do, trapped in Pemberley by the weather as they are, but I would not be calmly drinking tea right after a member of my party had been poisoned. They call the magistrate extremely late in the game. If it were me, that would be the first thing I would do, never mind the weather. If he’s close by, send someone on horseback. Do whatever it takes but someone has been murdered and you need the authorities. Darcy should have taken the initiative on this but he kind of fails to be the leader of his family here.

I find it extremely irritating when authors lift sections of the original straight on and plop them down into their own story. You get a pass if you’re writing a “from so and so’s point of view” story that takes place during the original and wants to keep the original dialogue, but there’s no need to liberally quote dear Jane all over the place. Clearly I have read P&P, or why would I be reading this? So you’re not going to fool me into thinking you wrote that. Weird quotes too, like the one Mary Bennet says about a woman’s reputation being brittle and beautiful. Why even use that? Just use your own words and it will be fine.

Another thing that really annoys me about these kinds of stories – is it necessary to have Elizabeth and Darcy all over each other all the time? We get that they’re in love, there’s no need for them to be constantly telling each other. I love my husband but we don’t spend minutes every day gushing over each other. They’ve been married for a year, you’d think the over the top honeymoony stuff would be out of their systems by then. Maybe they’re so slow to solve the mystery because they’re too busy mooning over each other and getting distracted?

I thought the ending quite improbable. I won’t say too much about the details to avoid spoilers, but I will say that having an aspect of Pemberley that nobody knew about is very implausible. This has been the Darcy family home for generations. You can’t tell me Darcy didn’t know every inch of it. I also found the ‘twist’ at the end kind of ridiculous. It’s hard to believe the author took the major cop out instead of making it a spooky mystery. It could have used so many amazing gothic conventions, the same kind of conventions that dear Jane herself was lovingly spoofing in Northanger Abbey. Instead it took the sensational route and fell flat on all counts.

If you’re looking for a Pemberley mystery, go with Death Comes to Pemberley instead. That one makes way more sense and is much better written.

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Perfect Happiness

519bFTGKDaL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_By Rachel Billington

2.5/5

Emma and Mr. Knightley have been married for over a year, and living quietly in Hartfield with Mr. Woodhouse. The peaceful world of Highbury is shaken by the news that Jane Fairfax Churchill has died in childbirth, and Frank has gone missing, leaving their newborn child in the care of his father Mr. Weston. This sets off a chain reaction of events that leads to trouble in the Knightley family, Emma having to go to London, and a widening gap between husband and wife. As Emma struggles to maintain her family and her relationship with her husband, will she be able to solve the mystery of Frank Churchill’s strange behavior?

For being a book called “Perfect Happiness”, not too many people are happy in it. There seems to be a general tone that everyone is miserable and just hiding it well, which was disappointing. There are so few Emma sequels, hardly any really, and I was looking forward to more of the same – some town intrigue and some engagements and Emma trying to resist meddling. Instead I got a lot of unwanted angst.

There seem to be two major arcs in this story, which is, if you ask me, one too many. There’s the early storyline of Mr. John Knightley being ruined in business and having to have his brother come and bail him out. That storyline ties itself up nicely about 1/3 the way through and we don’t come back to it again. The second storyline, which takes up the larger portion of the book, is of Frank Churchill’s fall. These two stories aren’t interwoven together in any way, or really referred to in the other half of the book. It’s like the author had two different ideas about which way the story would go, and instead of picking one and sticking with it, she just decided to do one and then the other.

You know what I really hate? When characters are forced to learn the same lesson in the sequel that they learned in the original. In the original, Emma learns not to be so hung up on class and money, and to let people make their own choices. In this book she learns… not to be so hung up on class and money again. I doubt she would have forgotten the lesson she just had a year ago. She wasn’t permitted any character growth, but was reduced back to being a manipulative snob. Knightley, similarly, goes back to treating Emma like a child. Which is creepy when you consider that they’re married. I get that he’s a lot older than her, but can you please stop referring to it as his “brotherly affection”. It makes their romance, when there is any, feel weird and wrong.

Ah Emma and Mr. Knightley. Even though we leave them in the original with a perfect understanding of each other, as they have been friends for so long and understand each other’s ways, one year has made them completely forget how to talk to each other. There were so many problems in this book that could have been solved if Emma and Knightley would just talk to one another. Seriously, people, communicate with your spouse! Emma spends literally months of agony thinking that Knightley is involved with Harriet, even though a simple conversation would have solved the whole dilemma.

There are really on two original characters added to the story – the Tidmarshes. Besides having ridiculous names, Mrs. Tidmarsh and her stepson were very strange characters. I thought Mrs. Tidmarsh was going to be a replacement Mrs. Weston figure, since apparently having babies makes you dumb and unable to talk about anything except your babies. But then she sort of transformed into a Miss Crawford figure, and then into I do know what. I was a very strange character arc. I was happy Emma had a friend and confidante who was helping her get over her snobby class issues, but the whole thing with Frank Churchill was bizarre and unnecessary. It was a strange subplot shoved in at the very end, with no time for Emma to react to it or for the plot to advance in any way. Very strange choice.

This book could have benefitted from a really good editor. There were several name mix-ups that would have been easy to avoid, and which annoyed me to no end. First of all, her name is Harriet Martin, and before that she was Harriet Smith. What’s this with calling her Harried Wilson? Where did the “Wilson” come from? Mrs. Elton’s sister Mrs. Suckling suffered from a similar name schizophrenia. Is she Serena Suckling or Selina Suckling? She’s called both. These are dumb errors and lead me to believe that there was laziness in the printing of this book. No one bothered to read it through all the way to catch these small things. Also, people keep giving Emma a hard time about not having children yet, and I thought that subplot was going to go somewhere, that she was going to announce a pregnancy before the end of the book, but that subplot was completely dropped as well.

There were a few things I liked about the book. I enjoyed where the author took Miss. Bates’ character. At least she got some character development! And I enjoyed the general pacing of the book. Even though there were a few weird choices, it was never boring. It dragged a little in the bits with Isabella, because as I said before, women with babies can only think about their babies, right? But other than that it was interesting. For a book called “Perfect Happiness”, it could have used a bit more happiness and a little less angst.

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