A Visit to Highbury: Another View of Emma by Joan Austen-Leigh
So you all know that I’m not really into diary novels, well that doesn’t apply to epistles, letters, novels. I don’t mind reading books made up of letters (as long as they aren’t solely love letters-that makes me feel like a voyeur).
And that is what this book is about. It is a view of the novel Emma told in letters. But the letters aren’t between Emma, Harriet, Jane, Mr. Weston, Mrs. Weston or Mr. Knightley. Instead the author choose to tell the story from Mrs. Goddard’s point of view, the headmistress of the school that Harriet attends.
I know. At first I didn’t want to read this book. Mrs. Goddard is hardly even in the story except when she brings Harriet to meet Emma and start the two’s friendship. I couldn’t fathom why they would pick her over any other character.
In fact, the story is told between Mrs. Goddard and her sister Mrs. Charlotte Pinkney, who is living in London after a hasty marriage.
I’m not sure about this.
I wasn’t sure if I would like it but decided to start reading so I could post a review.
So I read it and…
I was so surprised but I loved every page of it and couldn’t stop reading.
The characters were amazing. Mrs. Goddard is very sensible and tries to provide a good home for the girls at her school. She cares heavily for each one and tries to help them as much as she can. She even cares deeply for her staff, as when one maid gets pregnant and the father won’t marry or take care of her-Mrs. Goddard helps her out and keeps her job open for her return.
Mrs. Pinkney has always been happy and a spendthrift. After her husband died and she was left with his debts, she married quickly to the wealthy family friend, Mr. Pinkney. At first she is upset, angry, whiney, and just unhappy as she is still grieving the changes in her life and that her new marriage isn’t so fun and flitty: Mr. Pinkey is more concerned over finances than anything else. She is bored and lonely and instead of working on her marriage devotes all her time to writing her sister.
Mrs. Goddard writes to her everything that is happening in Highbury, even though she thinks the news to be nothing and rather dull.
But Mrs. Pinkney gets caught up in the tales and the story of Emma. Besides that she befriends a young girl, Charlotte, from the school next door (a horribly run establishment). Having her lightens up the home and brings Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney together as they both enjoy Charlotte’s company. They even take her to Bath.
Scene of Bath from Persuasion
There Charlotte meets a sailor and begins correspondence with him. Mr. Pinkey’s Admiral friend also agrees to look into whether Charlotte’s father is still alive, if survived the storm that took his boat.
As Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney draw closer together, he too becomes interested in the news of Highbury and the story of Emma.
Now I read an article not to long ago how Emma is a mystery, but thought nothing of it as it didn’t really seem like a mystery to me.
But then in this book Mrs. Goddard, Mrs. Pinkney, and Mr. Pinkney all collaborate to figure out different elements of the story. Who is Mr. Elton really after to be his wife?
Why is Mr. Elton so angry at Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith?
Why does Harriet refuse Mr. Robert Martin when it was clear she was crazy about him?
Who gives Jane Fairfax the piano?
Why do Harriet and Emma suddenly stop being friends?
Who does Mr. Knightley wish to marry?
And much more. The three are on the case:
I thought it was fantastic story telling. Joan Austen-Leigh knows how to have the perfect balance of the original characters:
With brand new, interesting, and fun characters
It was fun, captivating, and as said before, a real page turner.
I highly recommend it for any Jane Austen or Emma fan. This is one book that you shouldn’t miss out on.
For more on Emma, go to TO the Person Who Hated My Review of Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version
For more Emma variations, go to Baby Jane Austen
For more books based on Jane Austen, go to Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues