Monday, April 23, 2007

[Book Review] EMMA BROWN by Clare Boylan


Fay reviews EMMA BROWN by Clare Boylan and Charlotte Bronte (Viking, 2003)

When Charlotte Bronte died in 1855, she left a 20-page manuscript. Irish novelist Clare Boylan has used that manuscript as the first two chapters of her own novel. Emma Brown is the story of a young, apparently wealthy, young girl who is abandoned at a boarding school in England. From the start it is apparent that Matilda Fitzgibbon, as she is known to the school, is no ordinary girl. She is secretive, prone to fainting spells and claims to have no memory of her past. When the mysterious gentleman who left her at the school with a trunkful of expensive clothing fails to return, Matilda is reduced to servant status and eventually is befriended by Isabel Chalfont, a childless widow. In an effort to solve the mystery of Matilda’s past, Mrs. Chalfont enlists the services of her enigmatic friend, Mr. Ellin. Matilda, who discovers that her true name is Emma Brown, pursues her past through the seamy streets of London where she barely manages to stay alive while facing such horrors as homelessness, the work house and child prostitution.

It will never be known if this is the novel Charlotte Bronte had in mind when she began her manuscript, but it is certainly a very appealing and satisfying story. All of the characters are multi-faceted and fascinating. You care what happens to them. The fact that the audio version is read by Donada Peters is icing on the cake. Ms. Peters is a consummate reader who could, as they say, make the phone book exciting. In Emma Brown she has a story worthy of her vast talent.

Fay, East Shelby Branch Library

Check our catalog for the audio version (CD) of EMMA BROWN

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