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Emma Brown    by Charlotte Bronte & Clare Boylan order for
Emma Brown
by Charlotte Bronte
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2005 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Clare Boylan had some help when writing Emma Brown. She was inspired by twenty pages of a novel left behind when Charlotte Brontė died in 1855. Now, nearly 150 years later, Boylan has completed the unfinished manuscript, in a voice that will appeal to true Brontė fans.

The story begins when a young, plain-faced girl is dropped off at Fuschia Lodge, a ladies' boarding school in provincial England. Her wealthy guardian leaves the girl with the fawning Wilcox sisters who run the school. But at the end of the school term, the sisters realize they have been duped - they discover that Mathilda's home and guardian are ficticious. The sisters turn to local bachelor Mr. William Ellin to solve the mystery of Mathilda's origins. The narrator of the tale, childless widow Isabel Chalfont, helps Ellin by taking Mathilda into her home. In her attempts to draw the reticent girl out, Chalfont recounts the story of her life. Then one day Mathilda determinedly disappears to search for her own identity, as she remembers nothing.

As both Ellin and Chalfont continue their search for Mathilda, the story's setting ranges from comfortable parlors to seamy alleys in London streets. Told against the backdrop of Victorian society, with its social injustices and prejudices, the characters illustrate Charlotte Brontė's growing interest in social conditions. In the conclusion of Emma Brown (in true Brontė fashion) the reader discovers Mathilda's history - but only after the intricate interweaving of characters unravels as the pages turn.

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