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Emma Brown by Clare Boylan
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Emma Brown (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Clare Boylan

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3991526,786 (3.34)15
Member:turtlesleap
Title:Emma Brown
Authors:Clare Boylan
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2005), Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Enjoyed and donated, Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:Fiction, England

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Emma Brown by Clare Boylan (2003)

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Jane Eyre fans, I've found a little treasure! This book is a continuation of a 20-page manuscript (Emma) written by Charlotte Brontë and completed by Clare Boylan, an Irish author. I didn't even realize she had left unfinished works! I really, really enjoyed this one. It reminds me a bit of a Dickens novel, in that it exposes social injustices in Victorian England, and it is fairly true to Brontë's voice. You can tell where the manuscript ends and Boylan's novel begins, but I have to give her credit for doing her homework and writing a story Charlotte Brontë would have approved of.

It begins at a boarding school like Jane Eyre, and follows the tale of a mysterious young lady who can't recall her past. It has all kinds of twists and turns (some of them fairly abrupt but not annoyingly so), and it's a fun ride, very tastefully done. It has just enough mystery, romance, and religion to be a lovely tribute to Jane Eyre. ( )
  jessibelle34 | Jul 12, 2013 |
When Charlotte Brontë died, she left 20 pages of a novel behind. Clare Boylan decided to finish it. A little girl is enrolled in a private girls' academy. She is shy and reclusive, but the headmistresses make much of her because it's obvious that her benefactor has money. Trouble arises when her benefactor can't be found and the girl can't--or won't--tell anyone anything about herself.

I have to say that this novel stayed true to the whole Gothic, melodramatic feel that I associate with the Brontës. There were all kinds of improbable twists, turns, loops, and coincidences. Boylan was much more explicit than Charlotte Brontë could have been. Not that she was explicit, it just seems that some things weren't referred to, even obliquely, in those times. I did pick out where Charlotte left off and Boylan took over, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it did all fit together.

There were a lot of chapters covering the back stories of the supporting characters. They were absolutely necessary, but since I didn't know that until the end, I was mostly frustrated and wishing I could get on with the "real" story.

I would have rated this a little higher if I could have liked Emma a little better. But I really, really didn't like her. She was all "Woe is me!" and "All is ashes." She kept going though, through all her troubles, so I had to admire her for that, but would a smile really have killed her? And her world view was stark black and white. She did not see or acknowledge any shade of gray. She was very unforgiving and intolerant. If this character had been written in Jane Eyre's place, she would never have forgiven Mr. Rochester for lying about his marriage and that would have been the end of that.

But I did like Isabel Chalfont. Her life was never easy either, but she made the best of it, learned what she could, found happiness where she could, and tried not to dwell too much on things she couldn't change.

I think fans of the Brontës, who have read all their work and wish they could read more, will actually like this. Just don't expect anything other than doom and gloom from Emma. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Based on an unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte, this novel keeps the spirit of nineteenth-century England alive in the story of a young girl, seemingly abandoned at a fledgling boarding school. She has a mysterious past, which warrants investigation when her school bills go unpaid. Over the course of the novel, Emma Brown emerges from a frightened young girl abused by others to a resourceful young woman who decidedly goes in search of her past. A well-written novel and definitely recommended for fans of Charlotte Bronte! ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 23, 2012 |
I wouldn't actually call this a beach read. It's far too thick to lug to the beach and, honestly, the way I sobbed a little reading it on the train would also be inappropriate for the beach. You'll just have to let this one slide. My blogging schedule is very tight these next few weeks so you get what you get.

And what you're getting today is a beautiful book inspired by some twenty-odd pages Charlotte Brontë abandoned in the two years before her death. These same pages (it is assumed) inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess, wherein a well-mannered and well-off little girl is established at a boarding school but, when she loses her father, the school keeps her on as a maid, of sorts, until she meets with a happy ending at the hand of an exotic gentleman who was previously a friend of her father's.

Most people know the Shirley Temple version or the 1995 version (Liam Cunningham FTW!!.... sorry... sometimes I'm a 15 year-old-girl...), both of which took liberties with that story and resolved the plot with the girl's father being recovered from an injury in the war (oh, he's not dead... we just thought he was dead!) and they're reunited la-dee-da. Well. It's interesting to see the way twenty pages of introduction can influence two decidedly different stories.

Boylan begins her version by including Brontë's twenty-page text, and then continues in Brontë fashion, that is from the perspective of a youngish (30s) widow. It is from her that we learn Emma's tale. You can almost see Mr. Carrisford and others in Mrs. Chalfont and in Mr. Ellin, whose backstory is taken from another unfinished Bronte work, and who, with Mrs. Chalfont, goes about Emma's salvation. True to Charlotte's style, there's more here than meets the eye--everyone involved seems to always have more history to share. Boylan fleshes them out in the form of self-narrative, something Charlotte Brontë was very accustomed to doing.

Boylan not only carried on in Brontë style and character, she considered Charlotte's life - her experiences in her later life which would have surely influenced this novel, had she completed it. She was very attuned to the plight of London's poor, and since Charlotte wrote best about what she knew, it's almost certain that similar episodes would have made it into her text. But while little Emma holds the title's name, it is the narrator's life story that is the most sympathetic and the most genuine.

Part of this surely comes from the fact that Charlotte was yet again writing as a governess whose life was not ideal - I'll grant Charlotte the credit for that. But the way in which Boylan brings her to life - quite literally by mashing together tiny bits and pieces of Jane Eyre, Shirley and Vilette. As Mrs. Chalfont's youth unfolds as young Isa on the page, she is vibrant and alive and, most importantly, full of passion. Passion is perhaps one of the most important qualities in a Charlotte Bronte novel. After all, it was she who criticized Jane Austen, saying "...she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood..."

True, passion is of the utmost importance and Boylan has written it beautifully. But while these similarietes stand, and the key features are honored, there is a certain unease in the pastiche. Boylan did, I'm sure, her best to capture Brontë's voice and tone, but by clipping together her past works and then laying her later life's experiences over them, the voice of the novel seems off. There is almost as much of Brontë in the stroytelling as there is of Thackeray and, perhaps even more so, Dickens.

I can see how that would irk a Brontë scholar, and it must be observed that, as much as we would like it to be Charlotte's novel, it is only Clare Boylan's. But for being her novel, it is touching and passionate and excellent. I borrowed this one from the library, and I truly regret it - I wish I'd sucked it up and bought it for myself. But hey, Christmas is coming!

Lauren Cartelli
www.theliterarygothamite.com ( )
  laurscartelli | Aug 29, 2011 |
Clare Boylan's attempt to finish Charlotte Bronte's novel is disappointing. Unsurprisingly, it reads like a contemporary historical novel rather than a Bronte novel and I found it slow and boring. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Feb 5, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clare Boylanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brontë, CharlotteAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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To the memory of Carol Shields
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We all seek an ideal in life.
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I suspect the influence of unsupervised reading.
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Disambiguation notice
- Emma Brown by Clare Boylan is a completion of a novel that Charlotte Bronte started, but left unfinished at her death.
- Emma: a Fragment is the unfinished work by Bronte.
- Emma by Charlotte Bronte and Another Lady (ie Constance Savery) is another completion of Bronte's incomplete work.
Please do not combine these works (or any completed works with different completed works, or with the original unfinished work).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143034839, Paperback)

When Charlotte Brontë died in 1855, she left behind twenty pages of a novel that signaled her most compelling work since Jane Eyre. One hundred fifty years later, Clare Boylan has finished Brontë’s novel, sparking a sensational literary event. With pitch-perfect tone that is utterly true to Brontë’s voice, Boylan delivers a brilliant tale about a mysterious young girl, Matilda, who is delivered to a girls’ school in provincial England. When everything about the girl’s wealthy background turns out to be a fiction, it falls to a local gentleman, Mr. Ellin, and a childless widow, Isabel Chalfont, to begin a quest for her past and her identity that takes them from the drawing rooms of country society to London’s seamiest alleys. With all the intelligence and pathos of the novel’s originator, Boylan develops Brontë’s sketch of a girl without a past into a stunning portrait of Victorian society with a shameful secret at its heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:32 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Synopsis: When Charlotte Bronte died in 1855, she left behind twenty pages of a novel that signaled her most compelling work since Jane Eyre. One hundred fifty years later, Clare Boylan has finished Bronte's novel, sparking a sensational literary event. With pitch-perfect tone that is utterly true to Bronte's voice, Boylan delivers a brilliant tale about a mysterious young girl, Matilda, who is delivered to a girls' school in provincial England. When everything about the girl's wealthy background turns out to be a fiction, it falls to a local gentleman, Mr. Ellin, and a childless widow, Isabel Chalfont, to begin a quest for her past and her identity that takes them from the drawing rooms of country society to London's seamiest alleys. With all the intelligence and pathos of the novel's originator, Boylan develops Bronte's sketch of a girl without a past into a stunning portrait of Victorian society with a shameful secret at its heart.… (more)

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