Friday, 26 August 2011

MY EMMA MOMENT - A BOOK AND A MOVIE


No, don't worry, I have not suddenly become interested in making all my single friends engaged and matched. Never been good at matchmaking  ( well, neither Emma Woodhouse is,  actually!) Honestly, I envy my single friends most of the time, why should I ruin their freedom? Jokes apart,  my "Emma moment" is simply the fact that in the latest couple of days, I happened to read and watch stuff someway related to Jane Austen's Emma. Ready to discover what? 


1. A BOOK 


Perfect Happiness , The sequel to Jane Austen's Emma by Rachel Billington , Hodder and Stoughton,  , London 1996

"Emma Knightley, handsome, clever and rich, with a husband whose affection for her was only equalled by her affection for him, had passed upward of a year of marriage in what may be described as perfect happiness: certainly this is how she described it to herself as she sat at her writing desk from which she had an excellent view of her father, Mr Woodhouse, taking a turn rould the shrubbery on the arm of her beloved Mr Knightley".
With this promising opening I was ready to dive into a joyful family picture and thrilling romantic tale, but none of that could I experience while reading this novel. Page after page, my expectations were disappointed. The characters were all there for a new great story, even some good points for a good sequel were there, instead I felt as if something was missing  all the time. Well-written, in due respect of Austen's style and atmospheres,  but  the protagonists at times sounded untrue to their own nature or,  from time to time,  some of the turns in the plot were not completely  plausible. It is not the worst sequel I've read, mind you,  but it didn't totally convince me. I really wanted to like it but just felt like I couldn't from , let's say ... the second chapter to the end. 

The story is easily summed - up, if you don't expect too many details. 
A tragedy strucks the quiet routine at Highbury:  poor Jane Fairfax, now Churchill,  has died in childbed and Frank Churchill, nearly mad and desperate has disappeared, refusing to see his newly born son and menacing to commit suicide. Nobody knows where he is. Nobody except for ... Emma.  Another tragedy follows, as John Knightley is imprisoned for debts and his family, Isabella and their children, need Emma's and her husband's help.  This time, and for the first time in her life, Emma has to move to London, leaving Mr Woodhouse to the care and company of Miss Bates - who is now alone after Mrs Bates's sudden death. Emma's London adventures brought her a new charming, independent friend,  Mrs Philomena Tidmarsh,  and lots of doubts on the nature of her marriage. Why is her husband, Mr Knightley, always so detached, controlled, and why doesn't he trust her with his complete confidence? And , above all, why isn't he as passionate as Mr Frank Churchill? 
Other events will disturb the quiet life of the inhabitants at Highbury but,         of course, there must be a happy ending in an Austen sequel, or even more than one.  Just a clue. At the end of the book, after more than a year of marriage Emma succeeds in calling Mr Knightley with his first name, George! A sign of the reached intimacy which had lacked  between them before? A sign of the finally reached "perfect happiness"?   Oh! And just another small one: Mr Woodhouse doesn't mind Miss Bates's company at all!
Perfect Happiness is published by US publishers, Source Books, under the title Emma & Knightley.

2. A MOVIE 


Beautiful Lies (De vrais mensonges) - 2010

I had read somewhere online  that in this new light French comedy directed by Pierre Salvadori  the protagonist played matchmaking just like Miss Woodhouse in Jane Austen's EMMA. And could I resist the temptation to see it? No, of course. I found a DVD with the audio in the French language and English subtitles and truly enjoyed myself watching it. French "Emma" in this story is Émilie  (Audrey Tautou),  the beautiful but brusque owner of a seaside beauty salon who receives a very romantic anonymous love letter from Jean , her handyman (Sami Bouajila). 
Émilie  is not at all impressed by Jean's words and decides to forward the romantic letter to her depressed mother,  Maddy (Nathalie Baye) . What's better than a love letter to improve self-esteem and self-confidence in her fragile mother abandoned by her father for a new partner, younger than Émilie herself? Émilie wants to play deus ex machina but her tricks will make all of them suffer, while setting in motion a train of misunderstandings and complications. Happy ending? YES! 
If you like French comedy and romance, you'll like this film.   It is light, tender and funny. 

4 comments:

Laura said...

I have fond memories of Emma, especially of the Mr. Knightley played by Jeremy Northam. I must admit now I am tempted to give a chance to the french movie just because of you LOL I have had a big share of Harry Potters movie lately as I had a few back behind and I definitely need a change of registry

Robinbird said...

I was disappointed in this novel as well. The lack of communication between Emma and Mr. Knightley bugged me...along with pretty much the rest of the plot, which to me was entirely predictable.

Try Barbara Cornthwaite's "George Knightley, Esquire." It is not a sequel but a retelling of the original novel from Knightley's perspective and, I believe, the best retelling of any of Austen's stories I've ever read. It is a 2 book series. Enjoy!

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Laura
I hope you'll like it, then. It was fun to me, a light pleasant watching!
@Robinbird
Thanks for your suggestion. I'll add "George Knightley, Esquire" to my wishlist!

Georgie Lee said...

I love the Jeremy Northam version of Emma. I became an instant fan of his after watching it. The French movie sounds like fun. I will have to add it to my Netflix list.