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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: Emma

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
by Jane Austen
Classic Literature
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.


I have to say that I didn't enjoy Emma as much as I thought I would.  I'm familiar with the story and some of the adaptations, but the character of Emma on the page came off as more haughty and presumptuous than I was expecting.  She is very flawed, and it was sometimes hard to like her as a character.  I found the same for Mr. Knightley, who can be just as haughty and presumptuous, with the important fact being that he was usually right.  But even though these characters drive the progression of the story, there are many more interesting characters and a drama filled plot to help make this a charming read.

The character drama is a high point in this story because the plot revolves so much around the romances of the characters.  I found it very interesting how clearly Jane Austen can show the truth of a situation while also making it clear why Emma makes the wrong assumptions.  It's also fun, as the reader, to know more than the main character.  This aspect of the book was very engaging to me, because the moment when the main character realizes the truth has that extra bit of satisfaction.  The cast of characters in this novel are also engaging - there is such a wide variety and so many interesting quirks and character traits.  Mr. and Mrs. Elton were especially fun for me, because they are so awful, and yet it is not overdone.  They are just so perfect for each other.  Harriet was the most sympathetic character for me, even if not the most memorable.  She's nice and pleasant, and with so many characters in this book who are not very nice or pleasant (or at least not always), it was great that she got a happy ending.

With Austen novels, my biggest problem is usually how the romances are culminated, and Emma really surprised me with how abruptly Emma and Mr. Knightley came to an understanding.  It definitely didn't seem very romantic to me, and was more disappointing since this was really a moment I felt the book was building up to.  But Austen writes these characters with so much detachment, that I suppose it was to be expected, so I can't really fault the book because Jane Austen is very consistent.  I can't help feeling disappointed though.

Because I know this to be one of Austen's more well-regarded books, I feel like expectations made me think this would be a more enjoyable and satisfying read than I really found it.  But the story is solidly engaging, with a wonderful cast of characters.  The drama is resolved very neatly as well, with some good lessons included for some of the characters.

Sixth book read in the Classics Club Challenge
Also part of the 2014 Jane Austen Challenge

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