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The Novel

Reviews and information pertaining to various sequels and literary allusions to Emma.

Emma Sequels & Allusions: Jane Fairfax - Jane Austen's Emma Through Another's Eyes

Review by Linda Waldemar

By Joan Aiken
St. Martin's Press - New York/London, 252 pages (1990; Revised 1996)
ISBN 0-312-05844-5
Buy Jane Fairfax

I should preface this with the admission that I can find pleasure in almost anything that references Jane Austen or her works. Unless it is truly dreadful, I will usually enjoy it.

I was in the public library a couple of weeks ago and ran across Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken. The subtitle is "Jane Austen's Emma, through another's eyes." But it is a bit of a prequel as it begins when Jane and Emma are six years old.

It is not a very good book, but it is also not very bad. There are a number of inconsistencies with Austen's novel, but I found the perspective interesting and enjoyed it. I would give it about the the same rating as Darcy's Story, a recent allusion to Pride and Prejudice narrated from Mr. Darcy's point of view.

Emma is written as a selfish, self-centered, snobbish, insincere, envious, often unkind, child - and not a much better adult, either, until she falls in love with Mr. Knightley. Jane is very remarkable and kind, but is alway made to feel inferior to Emma during their early childhood. The book also describes Jane's life with her guardians, the Campbells, whom she lives with from ages eight through twenty-one. She is portrayed as superior to the Campbell daughter, Rachel, in every way; beauty, accomplishments, personality. Aiken gives Jane a lingering crush on Mr. Knightley and an active love for Rachel's husband, Mr. Dixon, vindicating Emma's fantastic suspicions in the original novel.

Frank Churchill first becomes attracted to Jane because he feels that their situations are similar; both have been removed from their loved ones to be raised by others. Frank is not written as self-centered nor shallow, but as somewhat insecure. He uses charm and ease of address to make himself acceptable to his adopted parents, all their acquaintances and everyone that he meets. Frank talks her into the secret engagement at a very vulnerable period in her life. She finally comes to love him after he has supported her through her troubles and has shown her a great deal of love and devotion.

- Review thanks to Linda Waldemar.