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George Knightley, Esquire: Charity Envieth Not Paperback – December 7, 2009
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Interestingly, Emma becomes more likeable here than in the original story. Mr. Knightley recognizes all her faults, but he can't help but admire her intellect, her good heart, her teasing nature with him, her elegance and, of course, her beauty. It takes him most of this book to realize that he's in love with her, since his relationship with her has always been more like an uncle or a much older brother. He's frustrated by all the attention she's receiving from Frank Churchill, who he deeply distrusts and dislikes.
But the strength of this book is not so much the story that all Jane Austen enthusiasts already know. Instead, it's more in the expanded world we get to see through Mr. Knightley's eyes. He exchanges letters frequently with his brother John (who is married to Isabella, Emma's sister). He dotes on John's children, and finds himself the reluctant owner of a temperamental cat, Madam Duval, bestowed on him by his young niece. He participates in area meetings regarding issues significant to the residents. He serves as magistrate, settling various disputes and legal problems. He regularly visits his tenants, particularly those who need some assistance. Unlike Emma, he's not at all class-conscious, treating everyone with dignity and respect.
The author has clearly done her research into the responsibilities of a man in Mr. Knightley's position, and she demonstrates how conscientious he is in fulfilling all of them. The number of different roles he has to play and the large number of people under his auspices are truly daunting, but he seems to handle it all capably, as he's been doing it for years. The reader can't help but admire him even more than in Emma.
Woven into the plot are two other men and their romances. One is Robert Martin, who comes to Mr. Knightley for advice when he considers proposing to Harriet Smith, Emma's constant companion. Mr. Spencer, a curate, has his eye on a widow, Mrs. Catherwood, who recently moved to the area with her blind young son. All three romances (including Mr. Knightley and Emma) are very much up in the air as this book concludes.
I am very impressed with the author's ability to mimic Jane Austen's writing. Since I was jumping back and forth between the two books, I could recognize how well it matched. There were times I had to think about which one I was reading, especially in those parts where both Emma and Mr. Knightley are present that both books share. I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion!
The first requirement for the reader is that you must love Jane Austen's EMMA. If you don't like the relatively slow movement of that story and the low-key portrayal of the characters, you will probably not enjoy this novel by Barbara Cornthwaite because she has followed the style and pacing of EMMA yet has moved the point of view to that of George Knightley. Personally, EMMA has always been one of my favorite Austen stories and Knightley one of the best leading men in fiction. Always before I had wondered about him and his life at Donwell Abbey. This novel gives that character dimension and fullness which made it a delight to read. I loved watching Knightley perform his role as a landowner, as an employer, and as a magistrate. Watching him deal with a tenant who wouldn't pay his rent on time all the way to his assessment of Frank Churchill's personality kept me glued to the pages. Watching the Emma/Harriet Smith/Elton romance develop was fascinating when seen from the male perspective of Knightley. Seeing how close the Knightley and Woodhouse families are was another bonus for me. Letters between John and George Knightley are charming and funny and show me a side of 'my' George Knightley that I wish Austen had wanted to show.
This is the first of a two part series. The story ends when Frank Churchill has convinced the Weston's to give a ball and then is called to Yorkshire unexpectedly. Jane Fairfax is in residence with Miss Bates and her mother. The pianoforte has been delivered, much speculation as to the donor has been discussed. I am more than just ready for the second book. All I have to do now is wait for it's publication.
I have always used the three book series written by Pamela Aidan which shows Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's perspective as my litmus test for great Jane Austen continuation writing. Charity Envieth Not by Barbara Cornthwaite has just been added to my list of absolute must-reads because it is absolutely that good.
If reading Emma leaves you longing for more, you HAVE to pick up a copy of George Knightley, Esquire. It tells the story of Emma from Knightley's perspective, and it's true to Austen's story and voice while presenting Knightley's side of the story and even introducing some intriguing new characters.
It's a fun read; a worthy companion to the original!
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“Emma” has been one of my favorite stories by Jane Austen, ever since I read it nearly seventeen years ago and no matter who plays George...Read more
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