Friday, May 09, 2008

REVIEW: Emma by Jane Austen

Adventures in Storytelling: Romance
Review by Alisha Iserman, Mount Pleasant Public Library

Although she was not extraordinarily well-known as an author during her lifetime, Jane Austen has gained much popularity these last two centuries. Not only have her novels been made into many film adaptations but there are also numerous Jane Austen sequel books such as Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen's Emma by Joan Aiken, Lovers' Perjuries; or, The Clandestine Courtship or Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill: a Retelling of Jane Austen's Emma by Joan Ellen Delman and Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston.

When the novel opens, we find Emma Woodhouse and her father mourning the loss of Emma's governess of sixteen years. Though Miss Taylor marries and lives only a half mile away, they are both distraught with her departure. Not sad for too long, Emma finds comfort in befriending Harriet Smith, a young girl who may not be a gentleman's daughter. Emma attempts her matchmaker skills with Harriet. She wants to match her with a gentleman. And while focusing on Harriet's love life, Emma finds a love of her own. In fact, he is a certain gentleman that she has known for quite some time.

One of the aspects of Emma that I much enjoy is the relationship between Emma and Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor is Emma's governess but they act more like sisters. Emma goes to Miss Taylor when she craves conversation or even when she needs advice. Emma cherishes Miss Taylor's advice even though she does not always heed her advice. Another aspect that I enjoy is the setting. I like picturing the English countryside and the people who once inhabited it. I imagine huge estates with beautiful courtyards. I imagine taking tea with the characters on a porch overlooking the gardens. I also enjoy Emma as she plays the role of matchmaker. While she has good intentions, her matchmaking most often goes awry. This reminds me of my own attempt at matching my sister with different friends of mine. My intentions were always good; however, good intentions are sometimes not enough.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

REVIEW: Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson

Adventures in Storytelling: Romance

Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson
Review by Kim Olson, Lake City Public Library

Magic Flutes is a truly astounding book. As in all of Eva Ibbotson's work, the underlying theme of basic human goodness resonates throughout the novel. The story is intricate and detailed, and although the basic plot is romantic, the quality of the writing lifts this story far above a "romance." The central characters are beautifully drawn, the minor characters fully present, and the setting exquisitely presented. A young woman, the last remaining princess of the highest ranking family from the now-defunct Austrian Empire, faces the reality of life after WWI, when titles are officially abolished, and there is no longer money to support the trappings of royalty. She turns her back on her lineage devotes herself to art, working as a drudge for a minor opera company. She sells her magnificent castle, rife with history, to an English tycoon who wishes to lay it at the feet of the breathtakingly beautiful woman who captured and then broke his heart a decade earlier. Full of enchanting tidbits about life and culture in Vienna and Austria in the
years following WWI, this charming story unfolds with fresh delights on every page.

Appeal factors:
Eva Ibbotson's writing appeals to me primarily because of her gift for portraying what makes really good people good. She does this subtly and gracefully, without a hint of preaching. All
her books, which range from children's fantasy to realistic adult fiction, carry the same theme, with the same wonderful, well-informed prose. She has a gift for character and setting that bring a wonderful immediacy to her stories. Her adult books also tend to be full of tidbits of history and culture that show the breadth and depth of her knowledge of the world, and which add a great deal of appeal and interest to the plots. You don't need to be James-Joyce-literate to
understand her work, but it is still sophisticated enough to offer more to the more discerning reader. I am still searching for another author that appeals to me in this same way.

Connection with other titles:
I recommend everything by Eva Ibbotson:
The Morning Gift
A Company of Swans
A Song for Summer
Madensky Square
Journey to the River Sea
Which Witch
The Secret of Platform 13
The Beasts of Clawstone Castle
The Great Ghost Rescue
Island of the Aunts
The Star of Kazan
The Haunting of Granite Falls