Emma, by Jane Austen
By all accounts, Jane Austen led a sheltered life. So perhaps it is somewhat surprising that she had an uncanny ability to see deeply into the emotional lives of people. Her six novels describe the nuances of people, and she had a gift for writing about the complex personalities of her characters and their daily lives, in a way that brought them to life. All this despite the fact that Austen lived her entire life in only a few places, without much money or prospects. She never married, and died after a long illness at the age of 41.
Emma is no exception to Austen’s talent for character development. She is a bright, vivacious young woman who lives with her sickly father in the small village of Highbury, sixteen miles outside of London. She has decided that she will never marry.
Emma spends her days socializing, taking care of her father, matchmaking for her friends, and forming opinions about all her neighbors and acquaintances. Sometimes her meddling goes awry, as when she convinces her friend Harriet that a Mr. Elton is interested in courting her, and encourages to discard another suitor whom Emma deems not good enough. When Mr. Elton returns from Bath with a wife, well, OOPS… Emma continues along this way, a wealthy society girl with nothing better to occupy her time than judging everybody she comes into contact with.
The most action in the novel are a foray to a nearby home to pick strawberries, a minor run-in with a band of gypsies, and planning a ball that almost ended up not happening. Many describe Emma as Austen’s worst novel due to this lack of action, but it still contains the rich character development. You still see Emma’s strengths and flaws, and find yourself relating to her cringe-worthy moments. I mean, we’ve all been there. You become invested in the characters. I found myself truly wanting them to succeed or fail.
That said, it is probably still my least favorite of the Austen novels, but I’m still glad I finally read it.