The Vintage Jane Austen project is kicking off with Emmeline by Sarah Holman. Sarah does an entertaining take on this, one of Austen’s most popular novels and often called her most accomplished work. Set in 1930 soon after the stock market crash that sent America into the Great Depression, Emmeline captures the flavor of the early 20th century. Emmeline Wellington (Emma Woodhouse) lives in a small town with her lovable, though narrow-minded, father and charming, brotherly young neighbor Fredrick Knight (Mr. Knightley.)
As the insulated and silly, but harmless, Emmeline drifts around Ashbury trying to tell people what to do, the story shows attentive research to food, fashion, and mores of the time, especially among traditional, conservative people rooted in small towns. I enjoyed Morgan Church (Frank Churchill), whose villainous scheming helped give some plot at the end, an improvement on the loose, draggy conclusion of the original book. My favorite character was probably Emmeline’s father, whose slightly tedious devotion to his car business and oncoming bouts of dementia were lifelike. Miss Bates was now shown as close to the heroine’s age instead of as an older woman. While I didn’t dislike the new character, Geraldine, I feel Miss Bates’s age is an important part of her relationship with Emma in the book because it shows Emma as disrespectful to someone old. However, it was excellent that Sarah branched out to create some new character dynamics instead of simply copying the original book into 1930.
Bellevere House (Vintage Jane Austen-Mansfield Park) coming in May!