Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Upon seeing the title of this book you might first assume that it is a fascinating and brilliant mash-up of Emma and Pride and Prejudice, and while you are correct about the story being both fascinating and brilliant, the heroines of this tale are not Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet; they are the youngest and eldest Watson sisters, Emma and Elizabeth – characters from Jane Austen’s unfinished and abandoned fragment known as The Watsons. Instead of writing about any Bennets, Elliots, or Austens, author Ann Mychal makes her Austenesque debut with a novel that tells the story of the recently reunited Watson sisters and their lives in Stanton, a quiet village in Surrey.
I applaud and admire Ann Mychal’s approach to The Watsons, I love how she started the story with her own words and perspective rather than utilize Jane Austen’s 17000 word fragment in its entirety. Ms. Mychal does use quotes and bits of dialogue from Jane Austen’s manuscript, and she also begins with the same premise and most of the characters Jane Austen created, but she makes this story her own by not following what, according to Cassandra Austen, was Jane Austen’s intent with these characters. And by doing so, Emma and Elizabeth is different from all the other continuations for The Watsons in outcome – one I found infinitely more satisfying!
What I loved most about this novel was the wonderfully drawn, comedic, and lovable characters! I adored our heroine, Emma Watson, with her high morals and very decided opinions – who, perhaps, shares her judgmental opinions a little too freely (reminded me a little of a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse). I loved sweet, selfless Elizabeth and her unquenchable thirst for town gossip; young, irrepressible Charles Blake with his boundless enthusiasm for just about everything (so adorable, loved his speeches); and the “great and grand,” Lady Osbourne, who believes herself to be a superior authority on everything, but is more gentle and resigned than overbearing.
The gentlemen of this tale did not disappoint either! I enjoyed Ms. Mychal’s portrayals of Tom Musgrave, who is well-known for being an insincere flirt; the charming, well-mannered, and proper, Mr. Howard; and Lord Osbourne, who is socially awkward, reserved, and a little reminiscent of another well-loved Austen hero, (especially when he unintentionally offends Emma at the local assembly). I love the depth, complexity, and personality Ms. Mychal gave to all of these men, and I loved witnessing their interactions with the Watson women. This entertaining and exemplary cast of characters continues (yes, there’s more!) with a fussy father, a flighty friend obsessed with redcoats, and many more charming and dynamic inhabitants of Stanton!
In addition to such a splendid cast of characters, Ms. Mychal crafted a story that is enthralling and entertaining. With surprise engagements, sudden marriages, a failed elopement, a grand ball, and the disappearance of Emma’s aunt there is much to excite and delight, and I found myself entirely engrossed by these characters and their world. If I were to quibble about anything for this novel, it would be the brevity and sparing descriptions of the long-awaited proposal scenes, but, as we know, that is very much Jane Austen’s way, and no one can fault Ann Mychal for wanting to remain true the author’s style.
Brava, to Ann Mychal for creating an outstanding and praiseworthy rendition of The Watsons! Written with an astute knowledge of the time period and an unmistakable devotion to Jane Austen and her world, Emma and Elizabeth is a deeply satisfying read that I receives my highest recommendation!