Review: Mrs. Bates of Highbury
Mrs Bates of Highbury
The new novel from Readers' Favourite silver medalist Allie Cresswell. Thirty years before the beginning of 'Emma' Mrs Bates is entirely different from the elderly, silent figure familiar to fans of Jane Austen’s fourth novel. She is comparatively young and beautiful, widowed - but ready to love again. She is the lynch-pin of Highbury society until the appalling Mrs Winwood arrives, very determined to hold sway over that ordered little town.Miss Bates is as talkative aged twenty nine as she is in her later iteration, with a ghoulish fancy, seeing disaster in every cloud. When young Mr Woodhouse arrives looking for a plot for his new house, the two strike up a relationship characterised by their shared hypochondria, personal chariness and horror of draughts.Jane, the other Miss Bates, is just seventeen and eager to leave the parochialism of Highbury behind her until handsome Lieutenant Weston comes home on furlough from the militia and sweeps her - quite literally - off her feet.Mrs Bates of Highbury is the first of three novels by the Amazon #1 best-selling Allie Cresswell, which trace the pre-history of Emma and then run in parallel to it.
Ah, Mrs. Bates. How curious I’ve been about you.
This novel focuses on the various misadventures of Mrs. Bates, who, in Jane Austen’s Emma, has been rendered speechless by a stroke. We learn her past personality, cheerful and frugal, through the incessant ramblings of her well-meaning but senseless daughter, Miss Bates. Emma learns charity as she goes from arrogantly dropping off leftovers to the widow and spinster to recognizing that even the grand Emma has much to learn from the likes of a poor and uninteresting spinster like Miss Bates.
Emma has a rick cast of characters, so revisiting them was a complete joy. I felt that the author did a good job of ensuring each beloved personality was recognizable. The first person, omniscient narrative was reminiscent of the age, which added to the sense that I had truly returned to Highbury.
There were some errors. Dialogue is difficult to mimic when trying to match a lost style of speech. The writer did a fagood it job, but catching the nuance with a character as verbose as Miss Bates was nigh to impossible! The plot is a little modern as are the relationships - but despite the challenges, this was the first Jane Austen revisiting that I thoroughly enjoyed. I could tell the author loved each character and respected the world built by Austen. As such, the pieces that matter most - the hearts and souls of the characters - shined through any errors created by viewing the past with modern perspective.
I’ll pick up the remainder of this Jane Austen series. The author has the good taste to love Emma and her odd little gang. I’m curious what she’ll have them do next.
Purchase from Amazon UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mrs-Bates-Highbury-prequel-inspired-ebook/dp/B07GJM2K4W
(For US readers, this book is available on Kindle Unlimited)
Author Bio –
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.
You can contact her via her website at www.allie-cresswell.com or find her on Facebook
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