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Eliza's Daughter: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility    by Joan Aiken order for
Eliza's Daughter
by Joan Aiken
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2008 (1994)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've been enjoying Joan Aiken's rather quirky YA books for years but had not realized that she'd also written Jane Austen sequels. Though it is much more in Aiken's than in Austen's style (not a bad thing, just different) I enjoyed Eliza's Daughter. As the subtitle reminds us, it is a sequel to Sense and Sensibility (and not, as I assumed from the title, to Pride and Prejudice).

Aiken's young heroine, the illegitimate daughter of Eliza Williams and John Willoughby, grows up in the 1790s in Nethery Othery, known locally as Byblow Bottom because of the aristocracy's habit of sending their illegitimate children there for fosterage. Pretty, red-haired Eliza has a sixth finger on one hand, which is also much larger than the other. Eliza's foster mother sends her daily to the vicarage into the 'decidedly questionable custody' of Dr. Moultrie, where she at least acquires a good classical education. As a small child, Eliza also meets - and spends a great deal of time roaming the countryside with - two famed poets.

Eliza's best friend is older Hoby and she cares for - and courageously rescues - a frail younger child they call Triz, leading to her association with the child's mother, Lady Hariot Vexford. Lady Hariot eventually is forced to take Triz to Spain, but arranges for Eliza to attend Mrs. Haslam's school in Bath. There, despite learning 'society's hypocrisies, concealments, rancours and enmities', she thrives until the malice of the Bath Beaux ruins her reputation, and sends her on her travels again. Along the way, Eliza begins to learn about her parents and reconnects with (a now disapproving) Hoby.

Eliza meets each twist and turn with courage and loyalty to those she loves - traits that take her on a perilous journey to Spain when Lady Hariot calls on her for aid. And - an aspect of the story I liked best as Joan Aiken avoids a trite ending - she makes her own life, and vows to defend her own daughter 'from society's jealousies, ambitions and rancours.' I recommend Eliza's Daughter to fans of historical fiction (as well as to any who wonder what happened after Sense and Sensibility) as an unusual, enjoyable read.

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