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Jane Fairfax

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,753 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Jane Austen's Emma has been a favorite novel for Austenites since 1816. In the mid-1990s it became a favorite movie for millions of new admirers.

A key reason for Emma's success is that the story has two heroines-Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax. In Austen's novel, Jane's backgound is left obscure, and the turmoil underlying her current reduced circumstances in mysterious.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 15th 1997 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,753 ratings  ·  229 reviews

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Katie Lumsden
Jul 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable read, and a strong and engaging retelling focusing on a fascinating character. I'd definitely recommend. ...more


YES, THAT BAD! It's an insipid & silly insult to Austen's genius.

PLUS it's obvious that the author had no idea what Emma was about and severely misunderstood Jane Fairfax's character & motives.

(view spoiler)
Girl with her Head in a Book
For my full review:

Early in this year's Austen in August, I discovered that well-known author Joan Aiken had penned several Austen spin-offs.  Given how much I enjoyed her Black Hearts in Battersea series, I was at once intrigued.  The consensus appeared to be that the best of her work was Jane Fairfax and since that lady is one of Austen's more thought-provoking minor characters, I decided to risk my reading time on another Austen spin-off.  Alas.  The d
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those tired of the incompete sequels
Recommended to Garnette by: Elizabeth
Shelves: favorites
Brilliant style, Jane Fairfax is written with full compliance with Emma yet with undertones that enhance rather than diminish Jane Austen. What I learned from this book was more than what I learned about Emma, with grace, without heavy handedness, the book is fully accomplished craft. To my wondering eyes, the author unfolds depths of understanding of motivation and characterization Jane left for the reader to discern. I even see Emma herself with new eyes - 'the hundred pounds', Frank Churchill ...more
Hilary Moon Murphy
Apr 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I had mixed feelings about this one. I loved Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and I felt that the concept of this book was brilliant. The subtitle of this book alludes to it being the "secret story of the second heroine of Emma," the very private and reserved Jane Fairfax. In Emma, Jane Fairfax initially appears to exist only as a foil for the main character: she is a deserving and gifted beauty that is doomed to a life of drudgery as a governess because she has no diary. But as Austen's ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
In honor of the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen's Emma, I have been reading stories set in that world. I love it when an author tackles a secondary character and gives them their own story. In this case, it is the enigmatic Jane Fairfax. Jane was the woman that Emma set up as her own rival and was engaged to a man that was an iffy choice for hero. I was so curious to see what the author would do with Jane's story.

I found the treatment of Jane's character, her background, and her circumstances a
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Becky, Katie
I felt like the author was doing well developing some characters that weren't as well developed in Emma then all of a sudden she had a deadline to make so she wrapped the book up early. I enjoyed the book up to the point where (I don't think this is a spoiler, since it's in Emma) Frank Churchill proposed the secret engagement. The whole last section in Highbury seemed rushed and it never seemed like Jane liked Frank enough. So it made me sad that she seemed to be settling. It's a shame, because ...more
I have a bit of a stubborn streak - something to which my friends and family can readily attest - and can be somewhat slow in learning my lesson... So it is, that although I thoroughly disliked Joan Aiken's Eliza's Daughter , a "sequel" to Sense and Sensibility , I still picked up this retelling of Jane Austen's Emma . I do love Aiken, and was hoping, perhaps, that Jane Fairfax would be an improvement upon my earlier experience. I should have known better...

Now, I am no fan of Emma Wood
I have been so surprised to discover that none of my Jane-Austen-Fan-Friends have not read this book yet (as of this review)?! Like me it doesn't seem like many of us even knew these books existed...or we would have read them much sooner! ;)

Anyone who has read Jane Austen's Emma will be thrilled and enamored with finally being able to hear the whole story from Jane's perspective! From the time they were children, Emma and Jane have known one another, but their lives must take very decidedly dif
Meredith (Austenesque Reviews)
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jane-austen, emma
What a wonderful book. No, it is not in the style of Jane Austen, but if that is not important to you then it is a great book for you to read. It takes you back into the beginning when Emma and Jane were little playmates. If you read Emma and wondered what her childhood was like, then you will love this book. You can discover the real reason why Emma dislikes Jane.

What is so terrific about this book is that you fall in love with Jane, she really is the second heroine of the novel. It is wonderf
There are so many things that I didn’t like about this book. Starting near the beginning where an 8 year old Jane repeatedly stands up to Colonel Campbell and his bullying ways (which seems out of character for her and indeed what in her upbringing would have prepared her for handling him?). All the way to the end when Jane is still comparing Frank Churchill unfavorably to other men (Knightley and Dixon) even as their engagement is announced. I never got the impression that Jane ever loved Frank ...more
I struggled to get myself totally interested in this book, Jane Fairfax, and have also struggled to figure out why. This is a well written book, and the character of Jane Fairfax is fairly complex and interesting. I enjoyed the writing and the character. So, why did I keep putting off reading this book when it has been on my TBR pile for years?

Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen stories and I always found the character of Emma to be so agreeably flawed. You just see her rushing pell-mell into
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Austen
From my blog:

I've never been one to read fan fiction because I've always equated it with science fiction (Star Trek, BSG, etc.) or Harry Potter. Then I realized I've read a slew of fan fiction based on Jane Austen in the last few years, although I've never really thought about it like that. The books have ranged from good (Bridget Jones's Diary) to not so good (Mr. Darcy's Daughters -- like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth would ever allow those things to go on under their roof!). I thought that Joan Aik
May 30, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is a rendition of Jane Austen's, Emma, seen from the viewpoint of Jane Fairfax. I had every intention of loving it, but can only say that I liked it. Aiken tried very hard to stick with the style of writing that Jane Austen used. For the most part she did well, but there were moments of irritation. I feel that her focus was off quite a bit as well. She spent far too much time narrating Jane's childhood and not enough time on the romance between Jane and Frank Churchill. I found it stra ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, 2013-books
Someone needs to hand this book to a soap opera TV show would make a perfect script for one of their shows.

Wow. I was in turns incredulous at and disgusted by this extremely shallow, sensational, insipid Jane Austen copy. There were times that I felt like laughing at the absurdity of it all.

I will say that the first few chapters were very promising and I was settling in to what I thought would be a first-rate story. Then it quickly disintegrated into insanity. At the end I could
Fabiana Udolpho
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
The first half of the book is delightful, with fine character development, great drama and an engaging heroine. Emma is a little too evil, but that’s Emma from Jane’s point of view, so it makes sense. Also, it’s a good thing that Aiken tells Jane’s story outside Highbury, instead of just rewriting Austen’s novel. Unfortunately, the second half is atrocious. Jane is messed up and everything is ruined. The relationship between Jane and Frank is never developed, and her reason for marrying him is v ...more
Susan Liston
I gather from reading reviews that how much one will like this depends a lot on how deeply immersed one is with Emma and whether it agrees with one's own interpretation. I read Emma for the first time last summer, and found Jane Fairfax a sort of mystery character, so I was curious to read it. I had no particular expectations, even thought I might very well end up tossing it after a couple of chapters, so I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. It all seemed about right (to me, anyway. ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I CAN'T BELIEVE I READ THIS ENTIRE BOOK IN LIKE 6 HOURS BUT MOM HOLY FUCK………I LOVED IT???????? Jane Fairfax origin story revolving around how being so similar to Emma yet driven apart by class is the real reason for their rivalry on both sides……like……holy shit…………

This was just genuinely great from start to finish, I loved the fleshing out of the Campbells, I loved the explanation of how being raised in high society affected Jane's perception and enjoyment of Highbury, I loved the additions of t
Jul 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: would-recommend
I don't love Emma (the book or the character), so I thought this was a perfectly fine retelling. If you do love Emma, you may feel differently. ...more
Rachela Muracka
Aug 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Remember that intriguing, original story that Jane Austen wrote about the redemption of a spoiled snob? Some one who won the sympathies of many readers--even in the modern audience--and decided to use her resources to be a better person? Well, let's take all that's interesting in that story and suck it out to make something cliched, judgementally dull, and too revisionist for *this* Austen fangirl.

First, (view spoiler)
Andrea AKA Catsos Person
NTS: See Melindam's review for reason to avoid this book. ...more
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it
The concept for this book is a great one - tell Jane Fairfax's story, all that we missed in Emma. The beginning, while she's a child in Highbury is charming, and seeing Emma and the other characters through different eyes is very interesting. The prose is well done, it's nicely Austenesque, and reads well. We really feel for Jane in her mixed status as one of the Campbell family, but not fully one of them, with – to paraphrase Dickens – no great expectations, despite all her accomplishments, int ...more
 Gigi Ann
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts...

I recently found this book while meandering around in Barnes & Noble one day. I love many of the sequels of the Jane Austen books. Since Emma is my favorite book by Jane Austen, and when I noticed the title of this book I knew I just had to have it to read. I found that it was a worthy companion to the original book Emma. It will have a special place on my bookshelf right beside the book Emma.

I loved this book and awarded it 5 stars. However, I think you will only enjoy the book i
Sep 15, 2008 rated it liked it
A die-hard Austen fan, I looked forward to reading the "backstory" of Jane Fairfax. But I found this to be somewhat of a disappointment. While convincingly written in the style of Jane Austen and meticulously faithful to her book, Emma, I felt it lacked the humor of the original and, obviously, the surprises. One of the fabulous things about Austen's writing is that her characters are human. They make mistakes, have character flaws; and that makes it so easy to identify with them. Joan Aiken's J ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: frustrated readers of Emma
Shelves: chick-lit
This companion novel to Jane Austen's Emma is, I think, a much more satisfying story than the original! I've never enjoyed Emma, simply because the "heroine" is to me, unlikable. Aiken's story fills in the gaps about the mysterious Jane Fairfax and creates a character that I sympathized with and befriended. ...more
Dec 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Joan Aiken's story did something that I long believed impossible. She made Emma Woodhouse into a sympathetic character. Jane Fairfax of this story becomes proud and judgmental, especially when it comes to Emma. ...more
Margaret Sullivan
It's very well-written and a good story, but I would not have made the same choices for back story. ...more
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This was not at all what I was expecting when I imagined what Emma would be like if told from Jane Fairfax’s POV. I was imaging the book being a romantic history of how she and Frank Churchill became secretly engaged. I imagined scenes from Emma with Frank and Jane, seen from afar, when it looked like nothing was going on, but there was. What were they saying in those scenes?
But this isn’t a romance, and it was a bit gloomier than I was expecting. Even so, I thought the author did a fantastic
Carol Douglas
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jane Fairfax is the story of one of the characters in Jane Austen's Emma. If you like Emma, you'll probably enjoy this book. Joan Aiken did a good job simulating Austen's style.

I am an Austen fan. Emma is not my favorite of her books, but I like all of them. I reread them every few years. But I'm not a fan of all the recent rewrites. I don't want to read about vampires inhabiting the towns where her characters live. I was disgusted by one novel that was almost pornographic; I couldn't read more
Carolyn Page
Jun 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Joan Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and short stories.

She was born in Rye, East Sussex, into a family of writers, including her father, Conrad Aiken (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry), and her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge. She worked for the United Nations Information Offi

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