Emma Volume 3
Emma Volume 3 is where William and Emma’s relationship really gets interesting. But first, there’s a charming digression that establishes essential background information about William’s family. (See Volume 2 for more history.)
William’s father Richard Jones had money but no background. His attempts to join society were rebuffed, with the “right people” blatantly talking about how unsuited he was. We see him meet his eventual wife Aurelia, who is considered hopeless for having no talents. The two marry and create their family, and Aurelia tries valiantly to live up to the expectations of parties and invitations, all governed by a strict social code, but she must eventually flee back to the country.
It’s disturbing, particularly to those of us who’ve never been part of such a regimented society (or needed to be), but it’s key information for explaining the environment William was raised in and why his father is so set on him making a good match. Although the parents’ story is told in only two chapters, it’s a masterpiece of conveying information briskly but sufficiently, and all beautifully illustrated by Kaoru Mori to give the flavor of the encounters.
As Emma gets back to work, there’s an exciting chapter in which a bad batch of coal almost burns down the house. That symbolically marks a change for Emma, as she and William begin exchanging letters, but it’s not even the most astounding turn of events in Emma’s life in this volume.
Meanwhile, William is attempting to extricate himself from his engagement, but no one wants to allow him to do so. His fiancee’s father, a cruel viscount who’s used to getting whatever he wants, through violent means if necessary, is introduced, and his involvement drives the drastic changes for Emma. I kind of admire the elegant deviousness with which the older generation operates, but then I remember how much I want Emma and William to find their happiness.
I hope that anyone who enjoys Downton Abbey finds a way to check this out. It’s got much the same appeal as that class-driven soap opera. (The publisher provided a review copy.)