Friday, November 6, 2009

Emma by Kaoru Mori

I had read glowing reviews and was really looking forward to reading Emma, which is historical romance in manga format. The 19th century London setting is beautifully drawn by mangaka Kaoru Mori. Emma is the only servant in the home of a retired nursemaid, Kelly Stownar. At the start of volume 1, Emma is introduced to William Jones, son of a wealthy businessman, when he pays a surprise visit to his former nursemaid. The two young people are immediately attracted to each other.

Later, William gets a surprise visit from his friend Prince Hakim Attawally, who arrives by steamship from India with an entourage of about a dozen male servants in turbans, four languorous young women wearing more jewellry than clothing, and five elephants depicted much larger than natural size. All (except the elephants) have bindis marking their foreheads. Hakim meets Emma and falls for her.

Serious-minded Emma seems to get a lot of love letters - a half-dozen at a time in one comic panel - but she has always turned down her suitors. Kelly's health is fragile and she worries about what will happen to her maid when she dies. She can see that there is a romantic attraction happening, so she subtly encourages Emma to consider William as a marriage prospect. It is clear, however, that William's father would never approve of a match between his son and a lower-class maid.

Ho hum. This book was a disappointment and I have no interest in reading further volumes (I think there are 7 in this storyline) to find out what happens in the end. The blatantly stereotypical treatment of the party from India and their inclusion for the obvious purpose of comic relief were also off-putting. Romance readers are the audience for this series. Grade 9 - adult.

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