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The Watsons by Rose Servitova

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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Over two hundred years ago, Jane Austen started writing The Watsons but it was never completed…until now.

Irish writer Rose Servitova made a decision to pick up where Jane Austen left off and has now published the novel complete ‘in a manner true to Austen’s style and wit’. Recently, Rose wrote a piece entitled ‘Publication Day – 216 Years after the Book was Started’ where she stated that…

‘It is a great responsibility to take on Austen’s work and one I confess I took rather lightly. The burden, the sense of her legacy rarely bore down upon me. I don’t think she would have approved if it had, nor do I think I’d have been able to keep the novel light of tone and true to Austen’s wit if I had felt the literary world frowning upon me. I jumped into it and as one of its ridiculous characters, Solomon Tomlinson, said “let the world think what it would, it meant nothing to me.”‘

The Watsons was published on October 20th 2019, a rare treat I think for all with a passion for Jane Austen and all who are looking for an authentic and truly exceptional read.

I have to admit it’s been many years since I read any Jane Austen so I was a little apprehensive picking up The Watsons. I was afraid that I would no longer have the same inclination to lose myself in this style of writing and also, would I be capable of reviewing it? I was, admittedly, very reticent in my approach but after the first few chapters I was completely engrossed in this compelling and beautiful read.

The Watsons is, as it’s name implies, a book about a family, in particular about four sisters and their struggles to find future stability and ultimate happiness. Their mother had passed away some years previously and Emma Watson, the youngest, had been sent off to live with a wealthy aunt. With their father, Mr Watson, a clergyman, now unwell and with no dowries for any of his daughters, the girls are expected to find suitors, and fast. Should their father pass away before they are successful in their pursuit, the girls would fall under the care and dependence of extended members of the family. Not a situation that any of them can bare thinking about.

Emma now returned, after fourteen years, is a stranger in her own home. She finds it difficult to settle into life after her more refined and salubrious upbringing with her aunt. The attitude of her sisters is a shock initially, especially when she becomes more attuned to their tricks and techniques to trap any poor unfortunate who may show a slightest bit of interest. Emma refuses to play their game yet still manages to attract the attention of more than one prospective husband.

Of all her sisters, it is Elizabeth that Emma is more drawn to. Elizabeth is refreshingly outspoken and doesn’t reflect the same level of desperation as the others. But with her other two sisters, Penelope and Margaret, Emma struggles. She finds them overbearing social climbers who inhabit a world that Emma has no wish to spend time in. Emma was very lucky to receive a more formal education, thus opening her eyes to the wide world beyond her now home in Dorking. Emma has opinions, she has thoughts and aspirations. The man of her dreams would need to able to challenge her, love her and admire her in both mind and body.

As the weeks and months pass, Emma’s head spins but she soon finds the equilibrium she is looking for. The problem though is navigating the very murky waters of life in Dorking to achieve this state of being, this state of complete joy and happiness that Emma believes could never truly be hers.

The Watsons is an incredible accomplishment, an extraordinary piece of work. Rose Servitova has captured perfectly the humour, the language, the wit and the style of Jane Austen. As we follow Emma and her family through the trials and tribulations of surviving intact the society of the time, the reader is transported right into the tale. The dialogue is so very credible throughout and flows beautifully among all the characters involved. The Watsons is such a convincing read and I really cannot recommend it enough.

Bravo Rose Servitova….

‘Funnily, when I had finished the novel, the characters felt as though they were true to the ones Austen had drawn up in her first six chapters. I felt an immense sense of satisfaction, that I had helped draw them out, dressed them, observed them as they encountered all sorts of adventures and listened to them as their story drew to its conclusion. Will my completion of The Watsons be viewed as a success – I can trust to the many Austen fans to tell me but I do hope that Jane Austen, wherever she may find herself, approves of it. I believe she just might’
– Rose Servitova

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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