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My Dearest Emma by Jane Chandler
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My Dearest Emma

by Jane Chandler

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Recently added byAdonisGuilfoyle
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    Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen by Sybil Brinton (AdonisGuilfoyle)
    AdonisGuilfoyle: If you want to read about the inter-marrying of Austen's characters, try this classic 'Austenuation' instead
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The following review is posted as a warning to fellow gullible Austen fans, particularly those like myself who will buy anything in print related to her novel Emma: DON'T! 'Jane Chandlers' self-published fan fiction is a step too far. In my chequered reading history, I have come across good stories badly written and bad stories penned with flair, but never a novel where the plots have been stolen from American soap operas and the entire book is littered with typos and sentences that are so awkwardly constructed they are barely in English.

Oh, and here be spoilers, if giving away the worst of the author's offences against Austen can make the experience any worse.

I was, I will admit, suckered by the blurb on Amazon, and the idea for Jane Chandler's 'Austenuation' is a good one - Emma Knightley, Isabella and John Knightley's youngest daughter who brings together her feuding aunt and uncle when she is but a few months old, recounts the continuing saga of Highbury to her own namesake, nearly fifty years after the events of Austen's original story. How clever! I thought. I would love to read about Emma and George Knightley, the Churchills and Martins, and the rest of the characters.

Sadly, Chandler had other ideas. The rot sets in on page ten, when Mr Knightley suffers an 'apoplectic fit' and dies, aged forty six. Stop doing that! What do these fan fiction writers - and by that, I'm including Emma Tennant and Rachel Billington - have against Emma and Mr Knightley living happily ever after? Or even just living? And of course it's downhill from there. Emma remarries - you guessed right - the widowed Frank Churchill. 'Perhaps it would have been better' if they had married in the first place, her niece muses, and Mr Knightley had shacked up with Jane, so they could both die prematurely together. Jane Chandler should have titled her novel Austenland: or, what I would have preferred to happen in all six novels by A Lady With No Imagination, because then the dysfunction really kicks into gear. 'What if' number two is Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon - another old git who gets killed off (with smallpox) so that his young and lovely bride can remarry - John Willoughby! Willoughby, apparently, was merely misunderstood, and 'deserves not to be reminded of his mistakes and sins from his foolish youth'. (And Jane Chandler is obviously a fan of the Emma Thompson adaptation.) 'What if' number three sealed the deal for me - Lizzie and Colonel Fitzwilliam! (She only felt 'gratitude and affection' for Darcy, and would have married the colonel, except he told her he was forced to marry an heiress. So instead Lizzie gives Darcy a year in the ground before proposing to his cousin.) All the characters from all the novels, including Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, somehow end up marrying each other, again and again and again, down the generations. I gave up trying to mentally keep track of 'Jane Bingley Knightley' and 'Emma Martin Collins', not to mention 'Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam'!

Other dreadful 'twists' include Mrs Bennet giving birth to a son and heir in her forties (women in Austenland are conveniently fertile, so that any second and third marriages might also prove fruitful); Mr Knightley turning out to be Harriet Smith's real father (her mother was an actress, naturally); and Kitty bringing up Lydia's illegitimate daughter. I think I just sat there shaking my head throughout, thinking, 'What?' The number of equally convenient deaths actually made me laugh, and the bizarre number of children with the same names - another Emma! another Elizabeth! - but different nicknames was beyond ridiculous (Emma-the-narrator names her daughter Lousiana Emma, or 'Leanne' for short!)

Please, please, do not waste your money on this - if you find a copy in the bargain bin in a bookshop, or a 'friend' lends you theirs, then by all means, share in the madness, but there are a host of far better Austen spin-offs out there. As Lizzie once recommended to Emma-the-narrator, this attempt should be destroyed after reading. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Oct 18, 2013 |
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