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Archive for July, 2014

This is not the first time I’ve read this book, but it is the first time I’ve read it since I started blogging about the books I read, and so I haven’t written a review of it before.  I LOVE this book, and will say from the outset that I doubt I can do it the justice it deserves (so you just ought to read Emma for yourself!)

Emma Woodhouse is a spoiled, snobbish, but ultimately well-meaning young woman, who – wrongly – believes herself to be a talented matchmaker.  She has no interest in marrying herself, as she would never want to leave her widowed, worrisome father, but she is determined to make couples among her friends.  She  decides that the local vicar, Mr Elton, would make the perfect husband for her naive young friend Harriet, and sets about getting them together; a plan which rapidly turns into a disaster.  Meanwhile, the whole village of Highbury is excited by the arrival of two visitors – Frank Churchill, the son of Emma’s friend Mr Weston, and who enjoys a flirtation with Emma; and Jane Fairfax, an elegant and quiet young lady – the niece of Miss Bates, a kind-hearted but (to Emma anyway), somewhat wittering villager.  As the story proceeds, secrets are revealed, relationships are put  under the microscope, and Emma learns a lot about herself.

So that’s the bare bones of the plot.  There’s more, lots more, but I’m reluctant to reveal it, and anyway Emma is so much more than just it’s plot.  What I really love about it is the humour – because this is really a very funny book – and the insight into human nature.  Each character is so well drawn and described – from the insufferable Mrs Elton, with her inflated sense of her own importance, to the kind-hearted and indiscreet Mr Weston, and even the lesser characters, such as Emma’s sister’s husband, John Knightley, with his dislike of social interaction, and irritation at well, most other characters, you do feel like you know these people.

Emma herself is precocious, judgemental, sometimes unkind, and often completely obtuse to what’s happening right in front of her, but for all that, I still really like the character.  She displays unending kindness and loyalty towards her father, where many would get annoyed or exasperated with him, she is able to recognise her own flaws, and she is charitable towards the needy in her village.

I cannot talk about this book without mentioning Mr Knightley.  He is Emma’s brother-in-law (his brother is married to her sister), and good friend, as well as often the voice of reason and conscience.  He is also my favourite Austen hero – I’d take a Knightley over a Darcy every time.  Mr Knightley is compassionate, sensible, honest, and very fond of Emma, but certainly not afraid of telling her off when she behaves in a way that is beneath her.

For all of these reasons and many more, Emma is not only my favourite Austen novel, but also one of my very favourite books of all time.  I wholeheartedly recommend it.

(For more information about Jane Austen, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the 1972 mini-series adaptation of Emma, starring Doran Godwin.

Click here for my review of the 1996 film adaptation of Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Click here for my review of the 1996 television film adaptation of Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale.

Click here for my review of the 2009 mini-series adaptation of Emma, starring Romola Garai.

Click here for my review of Clueless, the 1995 film adaptation of Emma, starring Alicia Silverstone.

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