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Emma Brown
by Clare Boylan

Category: Fiction / General
400 pages; ISBN: 0670032972

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


Emma Brown
Clare Boylan
Viking, Apr 2004, $25.95
ISBN: 0670032972

A relatively new school off the beaten path, a gentleman drops off heiress Matilda Fitzgibbon to attend Fulchia Lodge as a student. The three Wilcox sisters (the Bronte sisters?) who run the school hide their excitement of having a wealthy patron as displaying vulgar pleasure in public would be beneath the pretentious siblings. However, Matilda complains she suffers from amnesia only remembering being sold like cattle and soon the three owners become concerned that no money has been forthcoming as promised.

Not long afterward, Matilda apparently runs away stealing money. Kind matronly widow Isabel Chalfont, who provided some nurturing to the lonely Matilda, is very concerned for the child. She discusses what she knows with her close friend Mr. Ellin. He makes inquiries into what happened to Matilda including searching the mean streets of the London slums. Matilda, who recalled her real name, sought the mother who gave her away, but instead is now facing starvation or potential prostitution.

Talk about guts. Clare Boylan takes two chapters written by Charlotte Bronte just before the great author’s death and turns that into a delightful Victorian drama. The strong story line feels as if Bronte met Dickens with Wilkie introducing them. The cast is powerful and the change in narration enhances how readers see the prime players as their voice tend to reflect their respective personalities. Though the use of coincidence moves Ellin’s investigation forward and enables Matilda to get a bit closer to finding her mother, readers will not care as Ms. Boylan furbishes a wonderful homage to the Victorian novel, especially those of Ms. Bronte.

Harriet Klausner


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