Emma Volume 4
The leads, by this point, have nearly changed places. William, after being confronted by those who think he’s wronged his ex-fiancee, Eleanor, is determined to find his true love, Emma. Instead of doing what he’s supposed to, he takes action by scooping up Hakim and setting out on a search.
Emma, meanwhile, who normally proceeds with her work and stays active, has become more reflective after being shanghaied to America (a journey started in the previous book). Alone in a new world, after reminding herself (and us) what matters to her, she pulls herself together and quietly resolves to do what she must. That determination is what’s most attractive about the character, her admirable inner core of strength.
Once reunited, as one knows they must be, the challenge becomes one of preparing Emma to be accepted by society. That allows for checking in with many old friends from earlier in the series, particularly with the women who can assist Emma by providing role models.
Moru is a master of setting and pacing, drawing beautifully appointed environments rich with the detail of the period for her characters to think in and wander through. Although at its core a love story, Emma is also a portrait of how our actions affect others. William and Emma’s choices ripple through their world, causing others to be put in different positions or have to change their plans.
Much of this volume is spent exploring the ramifications on the woman William jilted, particularly given her tyrant of a father and his displeasure at being contradicted. His revenges are unique and sometimes subtle, but mean all the same. He’s the closest thing to a villain this series has, but he likely doesn’t even bother to think about most of the characters most of the time.
There are four “side stories” included. In the first, a working class couple saves up to visit the Crystal Palace and its great exhibition, demonstrating the splendors of the time period and its discrepancies in wealth. We also get to see Eleanor get more of a happy ending, following her recreational activities after she’s forced to leave town to remove the embarrassment of her broken engagement. (This was my favorite of the set.)
In the third, the newspaper is used as a connecting point between a cornucopia of touchpoint scenes, covering a wide variety of types and purposes. The final one follows another maid on her visit home to her large family, all working in various ways and dreaming of bettering their lives. (The publisher provided a review copy.)