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The Novel

Reviews and information pertaining to various sequels and literary allusions to Emma.

Emma Sequels & Allusions: Perfect Happiness, 1996 - Review by Kali Pappas

By Rachel Billington
Hodder & Stoughton/Sceptre - UK, 378 pages
ISBN 0-340-67512-8
Buy Perfect Happiness

Recently, I read Billington's Perfect Happiness, the most recent and supposed best of the Emma sequels to date. I believe I could have liked it less only if it were the sacreligious Emma Tennant sequel.

Okay, I hated the treatment of Frank (the peanut gallery yawns and says, "Right, Kali, sure...")...she made him out to be some ineffectual, psycho-lunatic rather than the capable (the man sure can fix a pair of spectacles!), if flaky and selfish, character of Austen's creation. Billington makes John into a greedy, uninsightful apparition, and confines Mr. Knightley, for the most part, to functional muteness, simple insipidity, and intellectual ignorance. Sick-and-wrong!

I disliked her new characters and their influence on Emma (which, thank God, doesn't last), and thought some of her metaphors ridiculous (one involving Mr. Elton and a cough drop pops into my mind). While I did like her general development of Emma's character, especially re: views on children, learning, etc., it seemed that most other characters and general plot continuity (esp. re: Frank) suffered.

Mr. Knightley and Emma spend much of the story as ships passing in the night, which bugs generally, not to mention the fact that it reminds me of the dodge-and-thrust moves Alexandra Ripley puts Rhett and Scarlett through in her Scarlett sequel to GWTW. In general, I thought that Billington's and Ripley's sequels had parallel faults (are these common traits, perhaps, the ingredients of all unsuccessful sequels?) - everything goes down hill when Mammy dies and Scarlett puts off for Ireland, and when Jane croaks and Emma trots off to London. Change of scene and society, while it may make for explosive new possiblities in plot development, really screws with the authenticity of the mood.

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- Review by Kali Pappas, 1997.