Our affection for the Rev. Mr. Henry Tilney is well-documented, but we must confess to an occasional fling with Mr. Knightley of Donwell Abbey (and have been known to sit adoringly at Captain Wentworth’s knee whilst he tells sea-stories, but that is neither here nor there). Conceive our delight, then, when we were informed that Amanda Grange has followed up Darcy’s Diary with Mr. Knightley’s Diary. Such anticipation for Austen paraliterature titles has been dashed in the past, but we are happy to report that in this case, our anticipation was not excited in vain. The squire of Donwell Abbey is fond of his country life: looking after his estate with the assistance of the redoubtable William Larkins, attending his whist club, dining at every house in the neighborhood, teaching his nephews to ride their first pony; and his fondest enjoyment is visiting his neighbor Mr. Woodhouse and his daughter, Emma. For a crusty old bachelor, Mr. Knightley spends an awful lot of time thinking about marriage, and an awful lot of time thinking about Miss Woodhouse. With so many concerns to distract him, a generous public must forgive that it takes him half the book (and the intercession of a dispassionate friend) to realize that this is not a coincidence. Fortunately Ms. Grange does not indulge in any creepy suggestions of Knightley having fallen in love with Emma as a girl; as Jane Austen tells us, “Mr. Knightley had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other.” Mr. Knightley had loved Emma all of her life, certainly, and cared about her welfare, but had no suspicion that his heart harbored anything more serious towards her until he witnessed her flirtation with Frank Churchill. Emma has a journey, without a doubt; but Mr. Knightley, despite his charms and perfections, has one as well, and it is not forgotten in this retelling. Like all Austen heroes before him, Mr. Knightley is brought low and humbled by his affection for his heroine; is there a sillier object in nature than a man just learning his heart? Or anything more thrilling?
“I think it an excellent plan,” she said gravely. “We must all have donkeys. I am sure Miss Bates would enjoy the experience, and Mrs Goddard would look very well in the saddle — if, indeed, donkeys wear saddles. I mean to purchase a donkey this afternoon, and I hope I may not disgrace you by my seat when you walk next to me, Mr. K.” “Oh, Emma!” I said. “Don’t…” marry Churchill, marry me, I was going to say. The words were on the tip of my tongue…*swoons in fever of fangirl delight* There is that strange sense of deja vu that come from reading the sort of book that tells a well-known story from a different perspective. The anticipation of certain events, indeed, makes it that much more enjoyable, and that the author has clearly studied the original carefully and not employed out of place embellishments sharpens the reader’s pleasure. If we found the original unsatisfactory, why in the name of Jane would we be reading paraliterature about it? Ms. Grange manages the tricky balancing act of satisfying the reader and remaining respectful of Jane Austen’s original at the same time, and like Miss Woodhouse herself, we are given the privilege of falling for Mr. Knightley all over again.
She teases me and bedevils me, she exasperates and infuriates me, but what would I do without Emma?Spoken like a man in love! Buy online at our Jane Austen Giftshop! Only £7.99! Click here. Price: £18.99 Hardcover: 224 pages Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd (31 Aug 2006) ISBN-10: 0709081340 ISBN-13: 978-0709081340 As for the cover portrait, author Amanda Grange has this to say, "Choosing the portraits is an interesting experience. (Incidentally this one is a portrait of Robert Southey,(1774-1843) who was an English poet.) I've never come across a portrait that looks exactly like my idea of Mr Darcy or Mr Knightley, probably because they were fictional characters who were never painted! But choosing from the available portraits that are from the right period, show a man of the right age (a lot are of much older men), show him alone (a lot show men with their families) and show him without anything odd in the background - odd in the context of my books, for example an elephant - limits the choice substantially. However, I'm very pleased with this one. Some of my friends think he looks miserable, some of them think he looks pensive, some of them think he has a look of Jeremy Northam (no bad thing) and I think he looks as though he's just got back from Box Hill. To me, his expression is just right for when Mr Knightley thinks that Emma is in love with Frank Churchill." Learn more about Amanda and her novels (including Darcy's Diary and the upcoming Capt. Wentworth's Diary) visiting her website, http://www.amandagrange.com/ Margaret C. Sullivan is the Editrix of AustenBlog.com and the author of The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World, to be published in May 2007 by Quirk Books. She has always wondered what William Larkins made of Mrs. Knightley. Click here for a sneak peek inside her new book!