Initial excitement was only slightly tempered by being informed by the back blurb that Eden was “A true if minor successor to Jane Austen...” (a damning phrase if ever there was one) and now I’m almost ashamed to admit that the book might have remained unread on the shelf for any length of time except for having that stinking cold which made something light and romantic seem appealing. I couldn’t have chosen better if I’d thought about it (which was lucky because I was well past being capable of thinking about it). I understand the Austen reference, it seems Eden (1797 – 1869) was a big fan, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is mentioned in ‘The Semi-attached Couple’ and I’m guessing that she wrote it partly as a tribute.
There will be more about the actual books in the next few days (two books so it seems only reasonable to spin this out into a couple of posts) but at the moment I’m more fascinated by Emily herself, she seems to have been very well connected, independently wealthy or at least left very comfortably off, she travelled to India where she lived for 6 years with her brother, was a renowned political hostess (Whig), and the portrait of her that springs up on Google suggests that she was fashionably attractive. She wrote for fun rather than out of any necessity but did well out of her books and comes across as a warm, witty, intelligent, and acutely observant woman. My overall impression of both novels is one of light romance – more Georgette Heyer than Jane Austen, but (like Georgette Heyer who must certainly have known the Eden novels) with enough bite and satire to keep my attention from wandering.
The letters that Emily sent home to her sister from India have also been published by Virago, and I’m hopeful that the copy I ordered will hit my doorstep any day now as I’m nowhere near having had enough of her voice, I imagine too that the letters will have more of the acerbic wit and less of the fluffy romance and I can’t wait to read them. Much as I enjoy reading older books it’s not so very often that I wish I could meet the authors, but Emily Eden would be top of my guest list for that imaginary dinner party of people you’ve always wanted to find yourself in a room with.