Emma Brown is a novel written by Clare Boylan. It is based off of a 20 page manuscript started by Charlotte Bronte, but never finished. The first two chapters of the book contain the original manuscript and the rest of the book is by Boylan.
Boylan is a talented and gifted storyteller. She is, however, a modern one. I think one could write an entire master's thesis comparing Emma Brown with Jane Eyre and Boylan to Bronte. I won't attempt to do to much of that here. Boylan attempts to have the same voice and writing style as Bronte, and succeeds fairly well, unlike the disastrous attempt titled Scarlett by Alexandria Ripley.
Emma Brown is a modern story set within the trappings of a Victorian setting. Bronte, a feminist of sorts for her time, would still be restrained by Victorian ideas of propriety and values. She talks about difficult things, but instead focuses on the characters and their development. You won't find explicit descriptions of violence. Jane Eyre is a story about a girl who is abused, neglected, and abandoned. And yet, the story shows hope and redemption.
Boylan, instead, drags you through the worst of humanity that existed in the Victorian period. Child prostitution, violence, death, domestic disputes, child abuse, abandonment. Instead of inference and mystery, she describes these things vividly and in detail. In Emma Brown, not only does Emma experience these things, but every single major (and most minor) characters. Overall, the story is rather depressing despite its positive outcome. I can't imagine Emma Brown being able to transition so easily into normal society after all of the horrible things she experiences.
I had wanted to give this book a very positive rating. But I simply can't do that. It is too depressing.
Book Rating: 3 stars for the attempt, not necessarily for the story.
Up next, Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke. The last three books I have read have been despressing. I skipped ahead on the library shelf for something much more positive.