The Watsons and Emma Watson: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Novel Completed

Written by Jane Austen Joan Aiken
Review by Nina de Angeli

It must be a publishing truth universally acknowledged that unfinished works by famous authors shall be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, no matter the author’s original intention. In this reissue Jane Austen’s fragment The Watsons was lovingly reconstructed by the late Joan Aiken and re-titled Emma Watson. The reissue also includes the original piece, abandoned when Austen’s father died in 1805.

The plot begins with a reversal of fortune, as sweet young Emma returns to her birth family in Surrey after losing her chance at a fine inheritance from the aunt who raised her. When Emma’s father dies suddenly, the family faces the loss of their home with little income to support themselves. Emma has three sisters: one kind and good, two mean and selfish. All are competing for husbands. In Emma Watson, Emma disdains the tactics of her mean sisters, refusing to play the coquette, but is embroiled nonetheless in a tangled, almost farcical, mating game. Aiken has taken Austen’s characters with their rather bleak premise and created a modern-style Regency romance, adding a dashing new hero. Austen’s subtle irony and complex characterizations are little seen, but this version is a pleasant, fast-moving read.