My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I struggled to get myself totally interested in this book, Jane Fairfax, and have also struggled to figure out why. This is a well written book, and the character of Jane Fairfax is fairly complex and interesting. I enjoyed the writing and the character. So, why did I keep putting off reading this book when it has been on my TBR pile for years?
Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen stories and I always found the character of Emma to be so agreeably flawed. You just see her rushing pell-mell into one mess after another. She is so obviously wrong about so many things and is adamant she is right. The biggest thing she is wrong about is Jane Fairfax. Jane is everything Emma is not - hard working, talented, beautiful, admired by all, a considerate friend and family member. It is no wonder Emma dislikes her so much; she is so close to perfection. I wonder if this isn't what kept me from reading her story. How could someone so perfect be anything but boring?
But, Jane Fairfax is not boring. She is actually quite courageous and a very good friend. As a poor girl without any prospects, poor Jane faces a life of servitude. At least she has people who will help her become educated so she may become a governess worthy of being hired by a good family. Jane dreads this. Who would look forward to raising someone else's children and being a servant after living the life of a beloved almost daughter to Colonel and Mrs. Campbell? Who would want to give up her friendship with Rachel who has almost become like a sister to her? Jane has no future as anything but a governess as she has no dowry or societal connections, so she must find employment. But, what Jane doesn't realize is no one else really wants her to become a governess either. They want Jane to find love and marriage and they are putting off as long as possible the time for her to find a job. Jane is loved by the Campbell family and her Aunt Hetty and Grandmama. They all wish her well.
So, Jane is now sort of stuck in a world where she is floating without a real place. She doesn't belong in the society of the Campbell family and she can't live in Highbury for ever without some income. Who would blame her for dreaming of love and marriage with first a man from her childhood, then the man who is the love of her best friend, and then finally, the young man she has barely noticed as he has been falling in love with her? She is heading home for a visit to her Aunt and Grandmother at Highbury and her life is so up in the air and her future is not defined. Can anyone blame her for accepting a secret engagement?
Jane Fairfax allows us to meet and know Jane as she was from childhood and what her experiences were prior to the action of the book Emma. We also see Jane as she views the world from the other side of Emma's matchmaking schemes and theorizing about the lives of those around her. In Emma we see how Miss Woodhouse views Jane Fairfax, but in this title, we see how Emma is viewed, and disliked, by Jane. See? Jane isn't really all that perfect and she is perfectly aware of what Emma is doing. In addition, she is very uncomfortable keeping her secret from all of her family and friends, and Frank's antics with Emma do not help make life any easier.
I still like Emma, but Jane Fairfax is a fascinating view of the other side and provides the perspective of someone who cannot find Emma amusing. This is very well written and I think JA would approve. Definitely recommended. It should be noted, however, that this book is not available as an ebook.
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