Mr. Knightley's Diary, Amanda Grange
Since I've discovered how much I love Austen's Emma and the characters she created, I have been on a hunt to find any sequels based on this work. There are a few out there. This author has written several other "diaries" from the view points of other Austen heroes (Mr. Darcy and Col. Brandon) and seeing as I absolutely loved Mr. Knightley I snatched this one up very quickly. It was a fairly decent read.
As the title suggests, this is Mr. Knightley's diary and we see most of the events from Emma through his eyes. Obviously things that were said or occurred when he was not present aren't mentioned (unless someone else has informed him of them) and we do see some of Knightley's activities beyond what Austen included in the original work. Some of the lines and speeches from the original are here, though many of them are cut down in length and that makes sense as this is supposed to be a diary and Mr. Knightley would not remember every single word spoken. Some may have a problem with the description of events from the original being cut down in size but again, this is a diary and Knightley is not going to record absolutely everything. I did find it interesting to see what some of his daily activities were, as we never get a hint of what his life is like away from Emma and Hartfield. In this version we see him with his gentlemen friends playing whist, at Donwell Abbey seeing to his accounts and tenants, and even a small glimpse of him visiting his brother in London. One thing I wished for more of in Emma was detail on Mr. Knightley and his life and his background. While we don't get any more information on his background in this adaption than what we get in the original, we do get a glimpse of what a gentleman's daily life might have been like. It appears the author really tried to portray Knightley as close to Austen's vision of him as possible, or at least as close as possible to what an English Regency gentleman would have been like on a day to day basis. I always enjoy a look at "the other side of the story" when it comes to well known fictional characters.
All that being said there were some things that I did not like about this adaption. While I feel Grange did try to paint a believable Knightley some of the things he "says" and feels just don't ring true to me. Some of it seems a tad juvenile and I found myself thinking, "there is no way Mr. Knightley would have said that!" Some of his thoughts just did not come across as ... manly or true to his character. I was not overly fond of the way Grange shows him coming to the realization that he was in love with Emma (I really can't see Knightley sitting in a gentleman's club discussing marriages and intimate feelings with a friend). It seemed to happen in an instant, like a light bulb went on over his head, and there were no good indications of where his feelings were headed, beyond the typical "He just didn't like Frank Churchill...for some reason" type of reflections. There really was no more insight into Knightley's feelings for Emma and that is something I would have enjoyed seeing explored more. I felt there was more passion in his feelings for Emma in the original but the reader is not going to get a hint of that here; I really was hoping for more. There really just wasn't that much more to this novel than the original and I really would have enjoyed a deeper look into Knightley's character. In the original you could feel there was much more to him than what meets the eye but you just don't get that feeling here. Granted, Mr. Knightley is not "seen" nearly as much as some of the other male leads in Austen's other works so the author had to fill in a lot of gaps in the story. However, it did seem to get a bit old to hear him say (again) that he walked over to Hartfield and had an enjoyable evening. Grange also included a very bizarre situation with Miss. Bates at the end of the novel which just does not fit in with Austen's original story. I really was scratching my head over that one!
Overall this was an enjoyable read solely for the fact that I got to see more of my beloved Mr. Knightley and it is always fun to see stories from a different point of view. It was a nice, easy, light read though lacking in the emotion and passion I kind of expected. There were some points that I was not fond of but it didn't detract too much from the overall narrative. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if there had been more depth to the story as I came away feeling like I didn't know that much more about Mr. Knightley as I did at the end of Emma. I would recommend this to Austen fans, though the die-hard fans may have a problem with some of Mr. Knightley's thoughts here. I certainly would recommend it to those who really enjoy this new fad of spin offs and sequels based on Austen's work. It certainly does not live up to the original but it was a fun read nonetheless.