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The Watsons by Jane Austen

The Watsons (original 1957; edition 1977)

by Jane Austen

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Title:The Watsons
Authors:Jane Austen
Info:Signet (1977), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The Watsons (completed by John Coates) by Jane Austen (1957)



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Think I read the original unfinished version. Short but sweet, would have been a good story had it been finished. ( )
  wildeaboutoscar | Sep 20, 2013 |
This is for the 1958 completion of Austen's fragment by John Coates.

( )
  Joybrarian | Mar 30, 2013 |
After making her name with Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but before writing Mansfield Park, Emma or Persuasion, Jane Austen started a story about a family by the name of Watson. She never returned to finish this work in progress, completing only the first six chapters, but the unfinished manuscript has been tantalising Janeites ever since her nephew published the fragment in 1871. Coates himself acknowledges two earlier versions, and the dreaded Joan Aiken took a stab at the novel in 1996, so the field is open and the guidelines are limited to Austen's opening chapters, but I need search no further: The Watsons by John Coates is a delight.

The basic premise of the original story will be fairly familiar to anyone who has read at least one of Austen's books. Emma - renamed Emily by Coates, to avoid confusion with her successor, Miss Woodhouse - is the daughter of an impoverished and ailing clergyman, who has been struggling to raise his children since the death of his wife. With three older sisters at home, Emily herself was farmed out to a wealthy aunt at a young age, and the story begins with her return to the parsonage in Surrey after her aunt's hasty second marriage. The eldest daughter, Elizabeth, is caring and motherly, but at nearly thirty has given her own youth to raising her brothers and sisters. Penelope, who reminds me a lot of Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, has also been staying with friends, but comes home to get to know Emily. Margaret is a manipulative diva reminiscent of Lydia in P+P, and there are also two grown and independent brothers, Robert - married to the very Eltonish Jane - and Sam the young doctor. Not surprisingly, with so many offspring, Mr Watson spends most of the time hiding in his room. (An early essay by Dr Chapman suggested that The Watsons is actually an early draft of Emma, but Elizabeth is the doting daughter, not Emily, in this case.) At the start of the seventh chapter, where Austen put down her pen for Coates to resume the story, the family has been introduced to the reader, and Emily meets three potential suitors at a ball. The Darcy-esque Lord Osborne, who lives in a castle with his forthright mother and sister, Osborne's tutor and friend Mr Howard, and the local flirt Tom Musgrave all take a shine to the new attraction, but Emily is drawn to only one man. Who will she marry?

There is really no telling how Austen would have continued the story, but she could surely find no fault in the style or fidelity of Mr Coates' continuation. At times, I had to keep reminding myself that the bulk of the narrative was actually written a good 150 years after Austen abandoned her work in progress! Coates captures the cadence, pace and even the humour of the original, and manages to coax a cast of endearing characters out of the briefest introductions. As with Austen's own novels, I took a while to make sense of all the names and relationships, but about midway through, everything suddenly came together and I fell in love. Emily is nothing like Emma Woodhouse, but neither is she another Fanny Price, a fate that Mr Coates thankfully saved her from, and Penelope is great fun - she says what she thinks, and has a very droll, teasing sense of humour. I also loved the growing friendship between the two sisters, who have grown up apart and barely know each other. Of the three suitors, I preferred Lord Osborne, but Coates keeps his readers guessing right until the final chapters, and all of the sisters find a suitable match in the end. Osborne's mother and Mr Howard's young nephew are two more brilliant creations who really come to life in the capable hands of Mr Coates.

Although Jane Austen gave up on The Watsons, I am eternally grateful that John Coates did not. Now I have another entertaining addition to complement the original classics, and fuel my love of all things Austen! ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Nov 13, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Austenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Coates, Johnmain authorall editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451075226, Mass Market Paperback)

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist. Her novels were all written and set around Regency Era. The theme of her stories centered upon the limited provincial world in which she lived for the first twenty-six years of her life. She never married and died at age 41. She began writing her first novel in 1789. Her family life was conducive to writing; the Austen family often enacted plays, which gave her an opportunity to present her stories. Her close analysis of character displayed both a warm sense of humour and a hardy realism: vanity, selfishness and a lack of self-knowledge are among the faults most severely judged in her novels. Criticized for being repetitive, her plots are nonetheless well structured, and reveal a sincere love of perfection and minutiae of detail that she believed was one of the prerogatives of any potential writer. Amongst her famous works are: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1816), Northanger Abbey (1818), and Persuasion (1818).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:27 -0400)

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