Mr. Knightley’s Diary
By: Amanda Grange
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy
Re-live Jane Austen’s Emma– from Mr. Knightley’s point of view.
Between managing his estate and visiting his brother in London, Mr. Knightley is both exasperated and amused by his irresistibly beautiful, outrageously mischievous neighbor, Emma Woodhouse, whose misguided attempts at matchmaking are wreaking havoc in the village of Highbury.
But when a handsome newcomer arrives and catches Emma’s attention, Mr. Knightley is shocked by his reaction. Amusement gives way to another emotion entirely-for his unreasonable dislike of the handsome newcomer seems suspiciously like jealousy.
I’ve been aware of Amanda Grange’s Austen Heroes Diaries for a number of years now. Two years ago I finally got around to picking up Captain Wentworth’s Diary (review) and had been curious to check out more ever since. After seeking some recommendations from a friend on Twitter, I opted for Mr. Knightley. He’s one of my favourite Austen heroes, and my favourite part of Emma (commentary), so it’s interesting to see how an author handles his side of the story.
I was 12 pages in and was impressed at how the author was able to convey Mr. Knightley’s tone and character. He’s straight to the point in his entries, sometimes very brief with what was happening that day, and it amused me how a lot of his early entries were focused on his work on his property, from visiting his tenants to dealing with a number of fences blown over from a storm that crossed the country the day before. It cracks me up because it’s totally things that Mr. Knightley would be concerned about.
Oh, and Emma 😛 It’s interesting how throughout the book Emma is a central feature in his thoughts, especially before he realises how much he loves her. He would mention to other people how he’d rather be spending time with Emma early in the book and people are nodding and going “Yup, yup” like it’s perfectly normal. Well, it is, but still, no one remarked “Oh, you’re totally in love with her, you just don’t know it yet!” No, just me? Okay…But moving along, it was fun to read as his thoughts gradually changed until he realised that he loved Emma and wanted to marry her (I admit, I had to go back a few entries as it seemed like a jump: one minute Routledge is telling him he should marry Emma, and next he was close to telling Emma his feelings). It definitely informs a lot of his actions later in the novel.
Another point that amused was how…wait, Knightley had friends? Lmao, I know he’s well-liked and well-respected in the neighbourhood but Emma made him seem like a bit of a recluse who’d rather stay at home (and he does express how much he’d rather stay at home)–and there’s nothing wrong with that!–but because of that impression, I never got a sense that he also had his own circle of friends outside of the Woodhouses and his neighbours. Friends like the Coles (gosh, I honestly don’t remember much of them from the book) and Routledge from the club adds to Knightley’s character and provides more storytelling without having to re-hash all of the events and scenes from Emma.
I also love, love, LOVE that we got more interaction and scenes with John & Isabella (which made sense because Knightley visited them more often). I enjoyed their scenes in Emma and the interaction they had with their siblings and everyone at Highbury. Plus, we got a better sense of what the sibling relationships were like, as well as more interaction between Emma and Knightley and their nieces and nephews, which was totally cute, and very informative of their families and their characters.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Mr. Knightley’s Diary, it didn’t disappoint. There were a few quibbles (for example, I clearly have watched the adaptations too many times because I thought Emma’s response in the penultimum scene when Knightley confesses his feelings seemed a little too restrained), but otherwise I really liked the perspective she took with the character, it still rang true to the character we were acquainted with in Jane Austen’s original. I would recommend this book for fans of Jane Austen.