Book Description: When her former governess finds happiness as the bride of a local widower, the brilliant and beautiful Emma Woodhouse — one of Jane Austen’s immortal creations — flatters herself that she alone has secured the marriage and that she possesses a special talent for bringing lovers together. The young heiress next busies herself with finding a suitable husband for her friend and protégé, Harriet Smith, setting off an entertaining sequence of comic mishaps and misunderstanding in this sparkling comedy of English-village romance. Beneath its considerable wit, the novel is also the story of a young woman’s progress toward self-understanding.
Emma abounds in the droll character sketches at which Jane Austen excelled. In addition to the well-intentional heroine and her hypochondriacal father, the village of Highbury during the Regency period is populated by an amusing circle of friends and family — kindhearted but tedious Miss Bates, a chatterbox spinster; ambitious Mr. Elton, a social-climbing parson; Frank Churchill, an enigmatic Romeo; Mr. Knightley, Emma’s brother-in-law and the voice of her better nature; and a cluster of other finely drawn, unforgettable personalities.
The author’s skill at depicting the follies of human nature in a manner both realistic and affectionate elevates this tale of provincial matchmaking to the heights of scintillating satire. A classic of English literature that has delighted readers since its 1816 publication, the novel is now available in this high-quality, inexpensive edition sure to charm a new generation.
My Thoughts: You’ll notice that this doesn’t begin with the usual “My Review”. How do you “review” Jane Austen. You don’t. You give your thoughts. I don’t think anyone can critique established genius. She’s one of my favorite authors of all time so I’m not even going to try. Instead, I’m going to tell you some of what I love about this book.
I don’t think of Jane Austen’s work as romance. I don’t spend time thinking about who anyone ends up with. For me, the adventure is in the journey. If you forget the movies that have been made about her work and only concentrate on the stories I think you’ll find that they are more gigantic character sketches than anything else. Her books are about people and how relationships effect their lives. I’m not just talking about romantic ones. I don’t find them overly romantic. They explore the time in which Jane Austen lived. She doesn’t build up Mr. Knightly, or even Mr. Darcy for that matter, as a romantic hero. She definitely doesn’t portray them as the Bronte’s portrayed Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff. Yes, I know that they were not writing at the same time but I think the fact remains. If you only ever watch the movies made about these books then you will miss what they are truly about.
Some people feel that watching one of the numerous movies will give them the general idea of what this book is about and that’s good enough for them. That’s fine. I gave up that fight long ago. A little Austen is better than none at all.
If you’re going to go that rout I have a suggestion. I’ve only seen one version that really captures the essence of the book for me. It’s not perfect but I like BBC’s Emma (2009). Okay, it’s technically a four part mini-series but I don’t think you can do much better. It stays close enough to the book that you’ll get the general feeling. The dialogue is also fantastic. It’s very well written and that drew me in just as much as the acting.
It also manages to steer clear of the thing that I detest about Jane Austen movies. I hate, and I mean hate, all of those white dresses with so much lace on them that the lace becomes a character in the movie. I hate that all the dresses are all exactly the same across so many of the movies. Does anyone actually think that all of the women of society were forced to wear a uniform?
This mini-series doesn’t do that. The dresses are fashionable and that’s what binds them together. Each character’s dress is an extension of who they are. Emma’s look is comfortable which is how she feels about her place in society and life in general. Harriet is delicate and simple and so is her dress.
If you don’t care about dresses and lace and want to focus on the book you could always listen to the audio book. I suggest The Classics Collection by Brilliance Audio. It’s read by Michael Page and it’s very well done.
If you’ve never read Emma you should give it a try. Jane Austen wasn’t a romance writer. Hear me out. Romance is classified as: if you removed the romance from a book, does it still have a plot? If it does then it’s not a romance(someone very smart said that but I don’t remember where I read it). Emma, without question, has romantic elements but this is the story about a young woman discovering her own heart. I don’t just mean romantically. Emma is a good person but she has certain character faults that she comes to see herself. Faults that don’t have anything to do with who loves who. Realizing that we are not perfect is a shock to anyone.
I think this book is also about the effect that society has on Emma instead of how Emma effects society. At certain points in the story I really think Emma is just doing what she thinks she’s supposed to do. Sort of going through the motions without knowing why. I don’t think it matters where you are in class ranking. I think society knocks you around anyway.
I love the style of Jane Austen’s books. I like how she tells the stories of her heroines. Can you imagine how refreshing it must have been to read about Emma or Elizabeth Bennet at the time? Jane Austen wasn’t the massive hit she is now but she did have some success. She was read. Can you imagine being a young woman of the time and reading about other young women who spoke their minds publicly and caused all kinds of mischief? It must have been something. Below you will find some of my favorite sites for all things Jane Austen including the books. Explore the world of Emma without all the baggage of the movies and experience it for the first time with a fresh perspective. You’ll be glad you did.
My favorite Jane Austen resources:
Austenprose– This a blog about all things Jane Austen. The novels, the movies; all things that concern the life and times of Jane Austen and her characters. If you want to know what to read after you finish Jane Austen’s novels then this is the place to find it.
Austen.com– This site has a great breakdown of all of Jane Austen’s work. It is also a great collection of links regarding the military and wars that were fought.
JaneAusten.com– This site is also a great resource for learning about Jane Austen and the Regency Era. You can also read her books for free there as well as get desktop wallpapers.
JaneAusten.co.uk– This is the site of the Jane Austen Center. They also have a great online magazine that has everything from Regency recipes to fashion of the time. It also has a gift shop where you can buy everything from teapots to lockets.
Original Background Image:Butterfly by Larisa Koshkina from PublicDomainPictures.net