Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Watsons by Jane Austen and completed by John Coates: A Review

The Watsons

by Jane Austen

Completed by John Coates

Source: local library

The Watsons was an unfinished manuscript left behind by Jane Austen. It has always caused us to wonder what would have happened had she finished it, so it was with delight that I found a very hard to find completion by John Coates. When I say hard to find I mean it’s out of print. I was lucky my library had a copy hiding in its midst’s.

Coates makes a change to our heroine’s name. Instead of calling her Emma he calls her Emily, which works just fine.

In the initial fragment we are led to understand that Emily had been raised by her Aunt who upon her second marriage went to Ireland effectively sending Emily back home to strangers. Mr. Watson is a sickly man who rarely leaves his room and Mrs. Watson is long since dead which is suggested to be the cause of Mr. Watson’s condition.

Emily comes from a large family---two brothers and four sisters. Her brother Robert is married to a simpering woman named Jane. The other brother Sam is practicing to be a doctor. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, is in essence the lady of the house seeing to all the needs of the parsonage. Penelope is the teasing, witty one and Margaret is vain and self absorbed. What a cast of characters!

Tom Musgrave is considered a flirt a la Willoughby or Wickham. He gets his just desserts when he marries Margaret Watson as he is sure to be miserable in life now. Lord Osborne is the wealthy lord who sets his eye on Emily and proposes to her twice (both time refused), but in a charming twist he finds his heart has been claimed elsewhere for some time. It is Mr. Howard who ultimately wins Emily’s heart despite him only being a clergyman---what is wealth and status to true love?

In other words this is a cast of characters that only Austen could have introduced.

Coates created a balance between Emily and her Aunt and their more prosperous status than that of her family. However it was suggested that Jane spoke to her sister Cassandra and explained that Emily’s father Mr. Watson was to die and she was to be dependent on her snipping sister-in-law and brother. As I knew of this I was saddened to see Coates deviate from that path, but then that is what makes it a completion because we can only speculate how Jane herself would have ended it.

Coates does an admirable job in keeping the transition between Austen’s fragment and his completion without any disasters. What is more is that every Janeite is sure to find similarities to other Austen characters in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believe that even Jane herself would have been proud.

Final Recommendation: A book worth the read….if you can find a copy that is.

Have you read this completion or the one by Joan Aiken?

1 comment:

patrick Morgan said...

I share your enthusiam for the jphn coates completion and can thoroughly recommend it. Unlike you , I had to fork out £35 for a second hand copy. But at the end I felt that I had read my seventh Austen novel. A must read if you can find it