Eliza's Daughter

Eliza's Daughter

2.9 31
by Joan Aiken

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A Young Woman Longing for Adventure and an Artistic Life...

Because she's an illegitimate child, Eliza is raised in the rural backwater with very little supervision. An intelligent, creative, and free-spirited heroine, unfettered by the strictures of her time, she makes friends with poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, finds her way to London, and


A Young Woman Longing for Adventure and an Artistic Life...

Because she's an illegitimate child, Eliza is raised in the rural backwater with very little supervision. An intelligent, creative, and free-spirited heroine, unfettered by the strictures of her time, she makes friends with poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, finds her way to London, and eventually travels the world, all the while seeking to solve the mystery of her parentage. With fierce determination and irrepressible spirits, Eliza carves out a life full of adventure and artistic endeavor.


"Others may try, but nobody comes close to Aiken in writing sequels to Jane Austen."

"Aiken's story is rich with humor, and her language is compelling. Readers captivated with Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility will thoroughly enjoy Aiken's crystal gazing, but so will those unacquainted with Austen."

"...innovative storyteller Aiken again pays tribute to Jane Austen in a cheerful spinoff of Sense and Sensibility."
Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ms. Aiken has written a delightful and humorous story, one that can stand on its own without the Austen reference." - Historical Novels Review

"[T]he story of Eliza and her ability to survive despite numerous disadvantages is one I would recommend." - AustenBlog

"I recommend Eliza's Daughter to fans of historical fiction (as well as to any who wonder what happened after Sense and Sensibility) as an unusual, enjoyable read." - Book Loons

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5.74(w) x 7.68(h) x 0.93(d)

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Excerpt from Chapter 1

I HAVE A FANCY TO TAKE PEN IN HAND AND TELL MY STORY, FOR now that I am arrived, so to speak, at a favourable hilltop, a safe situation above water level, I may look back on such mires, floods, tempests and raging tides as I have encountered with a tolerably tranquil eye; besides, my history should serve as a guide (or at least afford some diversion) to those who may be at present less favourably placed.

While, as to the dark that lies ahead, who can chart it?

In short — and without further preamble — I'll begin.

I have no information as to the circumstances of my birth, or even in what county that event took place; indeed I doubt if there is any record of it.

My first memories are of the year 1797, when I must have been, I believe, about three or four years of age, and, from the circumstances of my life, already a shrewd and noticing child. As an infant I had been, I heard, somewhat frail and puny, and with the unlucky blemish that caused me to be scorned by some and feared by others. My foster-mother, Hannah Wellcome, having at that period several boys in her care greater in size than myself, and fearful that, among them, I might receive some fatal injury (thus depriving her of my foster-fee) daily dispatched me with a halfpenny, from the time that I could walk, to the vicarage and the decidedly questionable custody of the parson, Dr Moultrie. With the halfpenny I bought three cakes at the village baker's for my dinner; and Dr Moultrie, to keep me from plaguing him with questions, for he was a slothful old party given to drowsing away many of the daylight hours in his chair, lost no time in teaching me to read, and turning me loose in his library. There, having run through such tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant-Killer and Gold-Locks as remained from the days of his own children (long since grown and gone), I was obliged to munch on more solid fare, Goldsmith's History of England, volumes of the Spectator, the plays of Shakespeare, and much poetry and theology, besides Berquin's Ami des Enfants and some simple Italian tales (in consequence of which I acquired a readiness and taste for learning foreign tongues that has later stood me in good stead).

There was one volume that I read over and over, The Death of Arthur it was called, and I found the tales in it of knights and battles, Sir Beaumain, Sir Persaint, Merlin the enchanter and King Arthur himself, most haunting; they held sway over my mind for weeks together. But alas! one day, absorbed in the tale of the death of King Hermance, I dropped a great blob of jam from the tart I was eating on to the page of the book. When Dr Moultrie discovered this, he gave me a terrible beating, after which I could hardly crawl home, and he locked the book away; I never laid eyes on it again.

However, to his credit, it must be said that finding me an eager pupil Dr Moultrie was prepared to emerge from his torpor for an hour or two each day to instil in me the rudiments of Greek, Latin and Euclid, besides a thirst for wider knowledge.

But I run ahead of my tale.

Hannah Wellcome, my foster-mother, appeared good-natured and buxom: round red cheeks and untidy yellow ringlets escaping from her cap would predispose a stranger in her favour. I believe a certain native cunning had incited her to marry as she had done, thereby endowing herself with a propitious name and the status of a matron; Tom, her husband, kept in the background and was seldom seen; a narrow, dark, lantern-jawed ferret of a man, he scurried among the lanes on questionable pursuits of his own. But she, smiling and curtseying at the door of their thatched cottage, her ample bulk arrayed in clean apron, tucker and cap, might easily create an impression of kindly honesty, and had, at any one time, as many small clients as the house would hold.

The house, whitewashed and in its own garden, lay at the far end of a straggling hamlet sunk deep in a coombe. Our muddy street wound its way, like a crease through a green and crumpled counterpane, between steeply tilted meadows and dense patches of woodland, close to the border of Somerset and Devon. There were no more than twenty dwellings in all, besides the small ancient church presided over by Dr Moultrie. He had, as well, another village in his cure, perched high on the windy moor seven miles westwards. This was Over Othery. From long-established use and local custom, our hamlet, Nether Othery, was never thus referred to, but always, by the country folk round about, given the title of 'Byblow Bottom'.

I write, now, of days long since passed away, when it was still the habit amongst all ladies of the gentle classes no matter how modest their degree, even the wives of attorneys, vicars, and well-to-do tradesmen, not to suckle their own infants, but always to put them out to wet-nurse. The bosoms of ladies, it seemed, were not for use, but strictly for show (and indeed, at the time I am recalling, bosoms were very much in evidence, bunched up over skimpy high-waisted dresses and concealed by little more than a twist of gauze and a scrap of cambric; what with that, and the fashion for wearing dampened petticoats and thin little kid slippers out of doors, very many young ladies must have gone to their ends untimely, thereby throwing even more business in the way of foster-mothers). Whatever the reason, it was held that the babies of the upper classes throve and grew faster when fed and tended by women of a lower order, and so the new-born infant would be directly dispatched, perhaps merely from one end of a village to the other, perhaps half across England to some baronial estate, to be reared in a cottage for two, three, or even four years, while its own mother, if so minded, need never lay eyes on it for that space of time. Of course I do not say this was the rule; many mothers, no doubt, visited their children very diligently, very constantly; but many others, I am equally sure, did not.

Meet the Author

The late Joan Aiken was a prolific author of children's books and Jane Austen sequels and continuations. She is the author of Lady Catherine's Necklace, which follows Anne de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Fairfax, a sequel to Emma.

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Eliza's Daughter 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first I thought this story was totally off from Sense and Sensibility because characters and facts were wrong or out of order, but half way through the book it explained and put the right facts back into place. I would read it again.
Laurel_Ann More than 1 year ago
Eliza's Daughter continues the story of a very minor character in Sense and Sensibility, the illegitimate child of Eliza Williams and her seducer John Willoughby. The infant, also named Eliza Williams is placed by her guardian Colonel Brandon in the care of a negligent foster mother in the village of Byblow Bottom, an infamous Regency era repository for the natural offspring of public persons who were reared away from their parents to avoid disclosure of their existence. Raised in this rural backwater Eliza learns to survive under difficult circumstance and scrape together a bit of education, all the while trying to unravel the mystery of her parentage. Clever and creative, she knows by age twelve that education is the key to her survival and seeks out Colonel Brandon's attorney's and asks for their assistance while he is abroad serving in the army. They send her on to the Rev. Edward Ferrars and his wife Elinor nee Dashwood at Delaford. The Ferrars are living in genteel poverty as a country vicar and his wife with one daughter away at school and Elinor's mother the once elegant Mrs. Dashwood now suffering from mental illness. Their acquaintance is strained and they decide to pack her off to school in Bath where their daughter Nell attends and Elinor's younger sister Margaret Dashwood is a teacher. She is not very welcome there either, but she endures and excels in music having a gifted voice which brings her some attention.

As the natural daughter of who knows whom, Eliza is definitely a social pariah and reminded of it with every connection and situation where she lives. The mystery of her parentage still lingers, but as the plot develops clues appear like bread crumbs along a trail bringing her closer to an answer by directing her to London and then on to Portugal. Ms. Aiken writes an engaging tale and knows how to keep our attention by a series of misadventures and recoveries by the heroine. We meet new characters as well who are interesting and authentic, but it is her treatment of Austen¿s original characters that is troubling and forms the largest objection from all of the previous reviewers.

Because of previous negative reviews I began with an entirely different objective in reading Eliza's Daughter, not as an Austen sequel but as a Dickensian tale full of memorable characters, social corruption, sinister doings and a twisting plot - Eliza Williams has a Copperfieldish adventure - and as such, it became quite amusing. However, it could have been an even more enjoyable if Eliza had been allowed to have a few more positive friendships to support her along her journey as Mr. Dickens supplied David Copperfield with his endearing characters such as Peggoty, Mr. Barkis and Wilkins Micawber. Choosing to make Austen's heroes and heroines the villains of this tale was a shocking and shallow choice. I may never forgive Ms. Aiken for striping away the tone and quality that Austen developed, but I will thank her for an inventive and engaging story that really had very little to do with what we experienced in Sense and Sensibility.

Laurel Ann, Austenprose
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was well written, but certainly for me not a pleasant read. I enjoy Jane Austen, and this novel does not have the same appreciation for the joy that underlies Austen's works. It reminded me more of an Anne Bronte novel: dark, brooding, with characters that do not endear. The implications of unhappiness in JA's own characters' lives beyond her novel were also disappointing.
Suzy More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Aiken's Mansfield Revisited, so was excited to find Eliza's Daughter. It's a bit unsettling that our Sense and Sensibility friends don't behave like we thought they would in the future, especially Edward, and we don't fully find out why. This book doesn't spell everything out for the reader; we must read carefully and infer on our own. I highly recommend this to any lovers of well-researched historical fiction. I'm off to reread to figure out ****SPOILER ALERT*** who is the father of Eliza's baby in the end? Can anyone help me out?
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do not write reviews very often, but was disturbed by this Jane Austen sequel. The author either never read the original - or if she did, must have hated it - and Jane Austen for that matter. The author went to great lengths to turn Jane Austen's wonderful characters into horrible, spiteful people. There was nothing redeeming about any of Austen's characters, or those dreampt by the author. Annoyed with myself for even finishing it.
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lizziebeth More than 1 year ago
Did Joan Aiken even like the characters of Sense and Sensibility? She portrayed the characters in such a dreadful way. I understand times were tough in those days but her portrayal was unnecessary. Ms. Aiken chose to make the happily ever we were left with at the end of S&S and turn it into the worst possible life leaving our cherished characters miserable and unlikable. Well, I guess poor Elinor is still likable even if she's married to the awful, brooding, chauvinist Edward. If you love Jane Austen, don't read this.
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joanna_m More than 1 year ago
i liked the original concept of telling the story of colonel brandon's ward, but it was written as if the author didn't like the original story or its characters. all of the original character were negatively portrayed.
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