Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Epistolary Novel, Minor Character, Sequel
TIME FRAME: September 1816 (two years after the close of Emma) – December 1816 (with some epilogue content)
MAIN CHARACTERS: Mrs. Goddard, her sister Mrs. Pinkney, Mr. Pinkney, Elizabeth Martin, Louisa Ludgrove, Captain Gordon, and Sophie Adams
WHY I WANTED TO READ THIS NOVEL: After being utterly enchanted by A Visit to Highbury, I had to seek out more from Joan Austen-Leigh! I love epistolary novels and definitely wanted to spend more time with Mrs. Goddard and her outspoken sister, Mrs. Pinkney!
SYNOPSIS: Picking up two years after Jane Austen’s Emma, this sequel continues to illustrate the exchange of letters between these two dear sisters. In this epistolary novel we see a large number of letters exchanged between Mrs. Goddard and Mrs. Pinkney, but we also see letters from Mrs. Elton, Charlotte Marlowe (original character from previous book), and a few others!
WHAT I LOVED:
- Oh, To Be In Highbury Again: I find Highbury fascinating and idyllic! I love all of its inhabitants and eagerly look forward to hearing about each and every one of them. Highbury is full of news and interesting events in this sequel – The Knightleys are finally moving to Donwell (now that Mr. Woodhouse has passed away), Mr. John Knightley is letting Hartfield out to a young, wealthy man and his mother, and Miss Bates is moving to Enscombe to live with the Churchills (now that Mrs. Bates has passed away). A lot of change for this small village!
- New Original Characters: So many new faces and personalities to encounter in this tale! Mrs. Goddard has two new parlor-borders, Louisa and Lavinia Ludgrove, who are vivacious and flighty. The new vicar, Mr. Rutherford, who seems very “diffident and shy,” inspires interest with his single status and reserved nature. And then there is the new tenants of Hartfield, Mr. Pringle and his mother, who create a lot of excitement and commotion when they after not much more than a month in residence, decide to host a grand ball at Hartfield and invite everyone in Highbury! These new characters were especially engaging, and since nearly everyone was married off at the close of Emma, it was wonderful to meet a new group of young people!
- More Correspondents: Is it wrong to say that thoroughly enjoyed seeing the correspondence between Mrs. Elton and her sister Mrs. Suckling? LOL! I love how obnoxious and exasperating they were! I thought their inclusion and story-line was very cleverly done.
- Cunning Inclusions of Jane Austen Phrases: Once again it was a lot of fun to spot the Austenesque turns-of-phrase – they all were very subtle and smartly placed. I also thought it was no small coincidence that a character named Louisa experienced a horrible, near-fatal accident. 😉
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Sometimes Stagnant: I’m afraid Mrs. Pinkney’s side of the correspondence sometimes fell flat. She was involved with assisting and hosting Charlotte’s naval father, who is trying to claim the right to his pension from the Navy, and fretting about Mr. Pinkney’s niece, Sophie, from Barbados, who is most unhappy to be attending an all girls seminary in London. With both these story-lines there was a lot of inaction, waiting, and maintaining the status quo.
- Too Many Story-lines: With so many story-lines, I sometimes felt it was challenging for the author to give proper attention to them all. I loved the new characters in Highbury and would have loved to seen more of them, (especially the parts where romances began to develop.) But with the culmination of events involving Sophie, Captain Gordon, and Miss Bates, they received little page time.
Dreaming of Highbury? Appreciate the elegant art of letter-writing? Admire Jane Austen? Then this lovely duo of books by Joan Austen-Leigh is not to be missed! I’m greatly impressed how Ms. Austen-Leigh took an obscure and oft-forgotten character and made her the center of this splendid retelling and sequel. I’m definitely an ardent fan of these charming and delightful stories published so long ago. In closing, I shall bid you all happy reading!
Yours in friendship and books,
By way of Suzan, a lovely long-time friend and reader of this blog, I am in now possession of a second copy of Later Days of Highbury. Since I already own my own hard cover copy of this lovely book, I thought I would present Suzan’s copy as a giveaway! As you see below, I have a former library copy of Later Days at Highbury that is looking for a new home!
If you are interested in winning this book for yourself, just leave a comment below!
- This giveaway is open to residents worldwide!
- This giveaway will end June 8th!