In EMILY HUDSON, Melissa Jones explores how a spirited
girl fits and/or doesn't fit into mid 19th-century
society. Orphaned and sent to boarding school where she
was asked to leave because of dubious behavior, Emily
Hudson becomes an unwanted guest at her uncle's home in
Newport. Emily's spunk (a tendency to run through rooms,
giggle and say what she thinks) doesn't jive with her
conservative, and often verbally abusive, uncle who wants
to see her married and gone as soon as possible. The only
spark in this somber atmosphere for Emily is a budding
friendship with her cousin, William, an aspiring writer.
Emily lost her family to consumption and, knowing she's
susceptible to the disease, she chooses not to accept a
marriage proposal from Captain James Lindsay. Her
consolation is that William takes her to London where she
can study drawing for which she has a passion. In turn,
William can introduce himself to English society. William
and Emily's relationship turns rocky as he becomes more and
more annoyed with her outspoken behavior, something he used
to find charming. Their interplay is interesting,
with William's affection often just shy of being
incestuous. Finally, fed up with Williams's controlling
manipulations, Emily escapes to Rome to finally finds her
Melissa Jones has brought to life the difficulties women
faced when trying to forge independent lives during this
time period. Generally women married, and those who
enjoyed their own lives were either widows or
independently wealthy. For Emily, dependent on her cousin
for everything, it's easy to see why it took her so long
to make a move. Jones's style is introspective, and at
times almost stalls before moving forward again. She
combines third-person narration with Emily's
correspondence with friends. Sometimes the letters
confused more than added to the experience, at least for
this reader. That said, this is a well-written novel of
self-discovery, and could very easily be a true story,
given what I've read of history of the period. What's
interesting is the prologue didn't make sense to me until
the very end, and then I understood it completely. Jones
clearly has a talent for character development, an ability
to set a scene, and realistic dialogue that enhances her
characters' personalities. I look forward to reading more
of her work in the future.
"Inspired by an episode in Henry James's life-the story of
an independent young woman's flight from convention. "
After the start of the Civil War, Emily Hudson-an orphan who
lost her family to consumption and fever-finds herself the
begrudged guest at the home of her relatives in Newport.
Emily's longing to be an artist is dismissed by her
puritanical uncle, who wants nothing more than to rid
himself of her through marriage. Her only friend is her
aesthete cousin, William, an ailing young writer.
When a promising engagement to the eligible Captain Lindsay
is broken, William rescues Emily from an uncertain future by
taking her to England. Lonely and desperate to escape her
cousin-once her confidante, now her obsessively controlling
patron-Emily sets out alone to meet her destiny in the
eternal city of Rome.
Reminiscent of the novels of Edith Wharton, "Emily Hudson"
is an exquisitely told tale about a heroine struggling to be
true to herself, and also find love in a society where only
marriage or an independent income guaranteed a woman the
freedom to do as she pleased.