The Watsons

The Watsons is an unfinished novel by Jane Austen, just a few chapters long. There’s basically enough to give readers a sense of who the players are and what some of the crucial relationships are likely to be. The central character is Emma Watson, who has lived for years with a wealthy aunt but has now returned to her immediate family. Emma is a little out of the loop about everything, and so her sister Elizabeth gives her the lay of the social landscape before she attends a local. There, she meets some of the neighbors, and Emma forms her own opinions of them — and they of her.

Already some love triangles are quadrangles are emerging. The flirtatious Tom Musgrave seems to be taking an interest in Emma, and Emma is more intrigued by the vicar Mr. Howard. Adding to the drama is a visit from Emma’s brother Robert and his obnoxious wife.

There’s a lot of potential in this set-up, and it seems pretty clear how some of the threads will be resolved. But, with Austen, the pleasure is in the journey, and her characters’ lives often take unexpected turns on their way to the seemingly inevitable conclusion. In this case, Austen chose to give up on the book. I would say that it’s too bad that she didn’t continue the story, but a promising start isn’t a guarantee of a good final result, and if she’d lost interest in it, perhaps it wouldn’t have turned out well. But I’m greedy for more Austen, and for that reason, I wish this one had worked out.

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