Author: Jane Austen
Published: 1815 Pages: 474
Genre: Literature, Classic, English
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 protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.
Reason I read this book: I had initially read the book about 14 years ago when the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation came out and really could not make sense of the book. This time around I read it due to the fact that it was a selection that my book club had made for this latest reading.
Thoughts: The first time I had read the book, I read it when I was about 16 years old and for some reason I never really understood it. Part of the fact was that I didn’t really understand what was going on and that I didn’t slow down enough to read the book with much purpose. On this reading of Emma, I decided to take a bit more time and read and listen to a free download of the book, even though I had only a month to read the book (normally I would have at least 2 months to read the book for my bookclub). It really helped to slow me down and actually understand what was going on in the book, especially when it came to events between characters and to understand their motivation later on.
I suppose it also helped that I had seen at least 3 different adaptations of the book, so I was able to a greater understanding of the action of the novel and also to have an understanding of what the rooms, homes, etc may look like visually as I read the book. I sometimes find that having a visual cue for what characters, settings, etc may look like allow me to greater understand the text. While some people can’t stand watching an adaptation before reading the actual book as they sometimes feel that the way they imagined characters are ruined. But I find an adaptation helps in understanding the book a little better, as I can better imagine what the character may sound and look like and what a particular setting may look like, especially if one can find a faithful adaptation of the novel.
While some may find Emma to be one of Austen’s lesser works, due to the fact that there is not really any sort of conflict with the main female character that is found in most of Austen’s other works, I found it to be one of Austen’s more complicated works, as the main conflict in the novel is found in one of the background stories and could quite easily have been the basis for the novel. Quite honestly, Emma Woodhouse is quite a dull character, as there is nothing really that complicates her life, other than trying to meddle in the lives of those around her.
At the same time, it is book that really doesn’t have strong main characters, other than Mr. Knightly, who seems to be able to stand his ground more than Emma, who seems to be slightly bored and can only amuse herself by meddling in the lives of those around her. It almost seems as though she doesn’t want to put her mind to something productive and doesn’t have the aptitude of having a conversation that has any sort of consequence. Unlike Elizabeth Bennett and Elinor Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse is shallow and so is her father, whose chief concern seems to make sure that everybody lives their life like his and that there are no drafts of any sort.
It is not only Emma that don’t really have any sort of depth to their character wise, but rather a number of them, including Mrs. Elton, who seems more concerned about letting everybody know about the connections that she has in Bristol, who have a lack of depth of character, unlike some of Austen’s books, where a number of characters seem to have a bit of depth to their characters. What I would have more liked would have been the Jane Fairfax/Frank Churchill storyline and how did they meet. I know that they met while they were at Weymouth, but the circumstances concerning their meeting is curious.
Bottom Line: While I enjoyed Emma, it is a book that does need a second read, as there is much that can be missed, especially in regards to the storyline regarding Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. It is also a book that when reread, one can find different things that one missed the last time it was read. And unlike Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, it isn’t exactly a light read, as there is much important information that can be glossed over when read.