Saturday, February 19, 2011
Prepare to be swept away...by George Knightley, Esquire
Posted by JaneGS
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post and the next one (which profiles author, Barbara Cornthwaite) and you'll be entered in a giveaway for one of two copies of George Knightley, Esquire Book One. Open to U.S./Canada only--contest ends Wednesday, February 23, 10 pm MT. Tweet this info and/or post on Facebook and you will receive an extra entry--just let me know!
I was expecting to really like Barbara Cornthwaite's George Knightley, Esquire. After all, Cornthwaite is a member of the Crownhill Writers Guild, whose other members include Laura Hile, Susan Kaye, and Pamela Aidan and who write some of the best Austen-inspired fiction ever.
I am happy to report that I loved it! Of course, I could only read Book One, but Book Two is due out around May, and I am already fidgeting with eagerness.
I am a great fan of Emma Woodhouse. Although I know she is accused of arrogance, conceit, and condescension, I know her to be only guilty of being young and a bit spoiled but with a good heart and a loving disposition. George Knightley, as beautifully portrayed by Cornthwaite, sees her in the same way. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Knightley gradually come to the realization that his solicitude for Emma is based on a deep and abiding love.
The title of Book One is perfect as the novel focuses on Knightley's struggle to overcome his jealousy of Frank Churchill in order to remain Emma's truest friend. It's such a pleasure to read an Austen-inspired story that aligns so well with my response to the original novel but that also stands on its own. Cornthwaite's story is not only faithful to Austen's Emma, but she provides a rich cast of characters and circumstances that flesh out Knightley's world beyond Hartfield and even Highbury making the novel a very satisfying read.
Among the new characters, my favorites are Mr. Spencer, a new, earnest, tongue-tied young vicar who comes to Donwell when the old vicar is laid up with an injury, and Madame Duval, a white cat given to Knightley by his niece, Bella. In addition, we get a wonderful picture of William Larkins, Knightley's right hand man. Mentioned in passing from time to time in Emma, Cornthwaite's Larkins is a delightful combination of loquacious busybody and efficient farm manager. I also loved hearing Knightley's candid observations of the odious Mr. Elton as he courts Emma, while she is scheming for him to be courting Harriet. Book One ends before Mrs. Elton arrives on the scene, but I cannot wait to hear his observations of her behavior!
Cornthwaite also does justice to the relationship between George Knightley and his brother John. I have always seen these brothers as having one of the most stable, loving, and realistic sibling relationships in all of Austen's novels, and the letters between the two are positively a joy to read.
Finally, Cornthwaite is true to the mystery-novel aspect of the original Emma, not an easy task when you realize how deft was Austen at providing all the clues to the mysteries in plain sight but distracting the reader with Emma's point of view so that we readers are just as clueless as she is. Cornthwaite provides Knightley with clues and allows him to slowly connect-the-dots, but at the same pace as in the original novel.
Bottom line? Barbara Cornthwaite's George Knightley, Esquire is a wonderful addition to my Austen-inspired library. True to original in fact, tone, and style, it provides a well-written, lively, insightful, and thoroughly enjoyable story about one of my absolute favorite Austen men, the incomparable George Knightley. If you like your men manly, passionate, compassionate, and comfortable in his own skin, you'll love Mr. Knightley...and he's a cat-person, who knew?
Confession - the only thing that I struggled with is Cornthwaite's decision to refer to her hero as Knightley. Granted, calling him Mr. Knightley throughout the course of the book would have been cumbersome and too formal. Calling him George would have been disrespectful. If Darcy can be Darcy, why can't Knightley be Knightley?--because Mrs. Elton calls him that, much to Emma's scorn. But that, dear readers, is the only quibble I can make about this marvelous book.
Bring on Book 2!