Book Review: Emma


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

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. 

3 stars. 

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Emma

  1. Agree with you ‘Emma’ is my least favourite too. ‘Persuasion’ is my favourite, and I can’t help but feel that perhaps Anne Elliot is Jane Austin’s version of herself despite her saying Anne is “almost too good for me”.

    • Persuasion is far and away my favorite as well! Perhaps because of my on life’s circumstances, and those feelings of unrequited love. It gives me hope that there are truly happy endings.

  2. I’m a rare breed in that I actually love Emma – it’s my second favorite Austen novel, placing just behind Pride and Prejudice 🙂 I guess I found it to be such a perfect example of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions 🙂 I also enjoy very much that while sometimes I want to backhand Emma, she keeps me from doing so with her charming moments, especially in regards to her father and how much she truly cares for him. And then there’s also the modern movie adaptations such as “Clueless” and the recent “Emma” movie that made me an even bigger fan 🙂

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