Emma, Vol. 2
Story and Art by Kaoru Mori
Rated Teen Plus
In Victorian England, a quiet young woman named Emma works as a maid for Mrs. Stownar, a retired governess. William Jones is the eldest son of a wealthy merchant family and one of Mrs. Stownar’s former charges. When William meets Emma while visiting, he’s instantly smitten. But class distinctions and some unexpected developments will conspire to keep the couple apart.
In this volume, Emma and William’s relationship moves forward, but new obstacles to their relationship also appear. William’s family urges him to make a more socially acceptable match with his sister’s friend Eleanor, while Emma’s own situation becomes uncertain due to the failing health of her employer and protector. We also learn more about Emma’s past and the circumstances that brought her to London in the first place.
This upstairs-downstairs romance is very restrained, almost to the point of being subdued. Emma is a character firmly in the traditions of Jane Austen’s quieter heroines (think Fanny Price and Anne Elliott, not Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse); she says little, keeping her own counsel, but her personality shines through her all her interactions with Mrs. Stownar, William, and others. William is also likable, but he makes much less of an impression on the reader. His character lacks depth; hopefully that’s something that will change in future volumes.
The art of this series is a major part of its appeal, and it continues to be a delight in this volume. Kaoru Mori’s historical research (hilariously described in the author’s note at the end of the volume) is evident throughout the chapters in the detailed backgrounds and costumes. Mori also does a wonderful job of conveying emotions with few words. In one particularly moving sequence, we follow Emma as she cleans Mrs. Stownar’s home. The only words on those pages are sound effects—a door closing, a brush scrubbing, water splashing onto a tabletop—but Emma’s feelings as she works come through the art very clearly.
This quiet romance won’t appeal to everyone; some will undoubtedly find Emma a bit boring, even with the occasional parade of elephants and dancing girls. But readers who have the patience for the slower pace of the storytelling—especially those with an interest in this particular historical era—will find a lot to like here.