Emma Volume 2
This part of the story splits up the maid Emma and the well-off William. After the death of her mistress, Emma is returning to her hometown, but a chance meeting with another maid leads her to a new position at a very different kind of establishment, a bigger house with more inhabitants and staff. She has a lot to learn about their routine and fitting into an expanded social system, as the reader sees how much the job of “maid” can vary based on circumstances.
Meanwhile, William and his family and friends are off on a boating party. It’s a wonderful sequence, full of atmosphere, and the reader is led to sympathize with him when confronted with the flighty chattering of the young women. They’re discussing what they require in a potential mate as running down a shopping list — so much money a year, the right background, and so on. That’s the world that they live in, where love is mentioned last as a “nice to have”.
William has decided to make himself into the perfect aristocrat in order to please his family, since he’s been told there’s no way he could marry a maid. He attends all the social gatherings and says all the right things. No one knows, but it’s his own personal martyrdom, self-sacrifice as deprivation. And it’s not as easy as he thinks to keep up with all the events if he’s not enjoying them.
Eventually, a lengthy opera sequence leads to quite the change for William, after both dramatic confrontations and subtle insinuations, while quite the fortunate coincidence means that the reader still has hope for Emma and William. Plus, we meet William’s mother, estranged from the daily life of the family due to her quirkiness, who’s a charmingly refreshing character.
The hardcover books are a pleasure to read. Since so much of the appeal of Emma is entering into a new world, the historical environment so well recreated by Kaoru Mori, it’s a better reading experience to have more of it under one set of covers. And the bindings are solid, with pre-creased covers so I’m not afraid of cracking a spine. (The publisher provided a review copy.)