Friday, May 20, 2011

Emma. Volume 2 by Kaoru Mori

Emma is a maid in Victorian-Era London, where the divide between the working class, like Emma, and the upper class that she serves, is distressingly wide. Emma has fallen in love with Edward, a young man of the upper class and one of the former students of her current employer, Mrs. Kelly Stownar, an old nanny who is retired from service.

Emma asks for the day off so she can go on a date with Edward, and he takes her to the Crystal Palace. Unfortunately, they get locked in all night. For a while, they talk, but in the end, they end up kissing. In the morning, they are let out, and go immediately home. Meanwhile, Edward's father takes the liberty of inviting a Miss Eleanor Campbell to be Edward's date at the next dinner party he attends, and she agrees gladly.

But afterwards, Emma is gloomy because she knows that the distance socially between her and Edward is too wide. But he wants to convince his father no matter the cost, and Mrs. Stownar tells Emma that it will all work out, because of who Emma is. But the rest of Edward's family no more wants him to be with Emma than his father does, and at first they are convinced that it is Eleanor whom he loves. His friend Hakim is the one who spills the beans, which Edward doesn't like.

But when Mrs. Stownar finally passes away, Edward is no closer to convincing his father to let him marry Emma, and when Emma comes to see him, Edward's little sister, Vivi, tells Emma that Emma is just a fortune hunter and that Vivi hates her for trying to ensnare Edward in her "web". Emma is greatly disheartened by this lecture, and leaves, even though Hakim tells her she should wait and speak to Edward herself. Meanwhile, Edward has gone to Mrs. Stownar's house to try and speak to Emma, but she is no longer there.

Meanwhile, we get to see how Emma, who was born in the country, came to London and became a maid. Taken in by an ungrateful aunt. she was slapped and mistreated, before being kidnapped and sold into a brothel. Escaping that, she went into a life on the streets, selling flowers in Covent Garden before being taken in by a woman who used her to do odd jobs, and then she was taken in by Kelly Stownar herself. Now that she is once again without work, she must find a new situation before she starves once more.

So, when she bumps into another servant on the train leaving London, can she use her friendship with the girl to get a job with the same family? And what problems and opportunities will her new situation bring her? And after missing her at the station, what will happen to Edward?

This is another manga I found myself enjoying, and the story of Emma is compelling and interesting, because it shows so much of what Victorian life was like for servants. Emma for so long was the servant of one old woman, and it is very different serving in a big house with many multiple servants. Emma will just be one of many, and the former close relationship she enjoyed with her employer is going to be very different.

And she already knows that a love match between her and Edward is impossible, but to be railed at by his sister, even if she is very young, must be very disheartening for Emma. And Edward must deal with the disappointment of wanting to rescue the woman he loves, and being unable to. And now he has nothing but the emptiness in his heart of not having her and not knowing where she is. Will he give up and end up marrying Eleanor, or will he hold out for Emma, the woman he may never see again (okay, it's a manga. We all know that is never going to happen!)?

This is a slow-paced but engaging story that is a welcome change from all those modern-day high school romances with the amped up drama, tears and mean girls. For now, the lovers are parted, and something tells me that much time and distance will come between them before they meet again. Recommended.

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