A VISIT TO HIGHBURY by Joan Austen-Leigh


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 Jane Austen's heir-apparent rewrites the Emma story and gives life to some wonderful minor characters in this delightful epistolary novel. The events of Emma are given a new twist in the letters of Mrs. Mary Goddard, the headmistress of the girls' school in Highbury, Emma Woodhouse's village 12 miles outside of London, and Mrs. Goddard's sister, Mrs. Charlotte Pinkney. Mrs. Pinkney is unhappy with her recent marriage to Mr. Pinkney, who she feels wed her to replace his housekeeper. For her part, Mrs. Pinkney was nearly destitute after the death of her first husband and accepted Mr. Pinkney with no expectations of marital bliss. In her early letters to her sister, Mrs. Pinkney complains constantly of her unloving and reclusive husband and looks forward to the correspondence to alleviate some of her boredom and loneliness. Mrs. Goddard, although willing to give Mr. Pinkney more credit, is happy to be able to gossip about Highbury with Mrs. Pinkney. She relates the details of the budding friendship between her pretty but simple parlor boarder, Harriet Smith, and the wealthy and clever Emma; the strange circumstances of the handsome vicar's marriage; the secret engagement of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill; and Emma's own unexpected romance. At the same time, Mrs. Pinkney writes of her young protÇgÇe, Charlotte Gordon, who lives at the ladies' seminary next door to the Pinkneys. Mr. and Mrs. Pinkney take Charlotte to Bath, and en route she meets a dashing young naval lieutenant who saves her from falling off the coach. The young couple's romance progresses without too much difficulty and they, in return, aid in the older couple's reconciliation. Mr. Pinkney then joins his wife in unraveling the little mysteries of Highbury, where all the characters eventually end up. Austen-Leigh, the great-great-grandniece of Austen, is faithful to her illustrious ancestor. Although lacking the dark humor of the original, her visit with old friends will be a pleasure for Austen enthusiasts.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11860-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995