[Emma]: A Review

Hi y’all! This post is scheduled to come to you while I’m on vacation at Disneyland! Because of that, forgive a bit of lateness in my response time to your comments. Thanks!

Today I’m excited to share my review of Emma by Jane Austen. The last time I read it was in college so it was fun to reread it again. I always forget how much I enjoy this novel until I reread it. This is Austen at her best.

I love Emma because it teaches us about the importance of learning from our mistakes and understanding how our actions can affect other people. This novel teaches us about good intentions gone wrong and how to befriend people in the best ways. It’s about love and friendship and finding your best self despite everything.

I recently decided to add all 6 of Austen’s finished novels to my Classics Club list (after starting my initial list with 3). And I am having so much fun reading them all. I forget how much I love each novel, each set of characters, and each love story. Some of my all time favorites for sure. If you have never read Austen, you’ve got to try her books! This one is a lighthearted, fairly fast paced novel and is great to start with.

Initial Thoughts:

  • What makes this one especially fun is all the misunderstood love. We have Emma blundering about trying to match everyone with the wrong people and all the while she is in love herself without knowing it until the end. We even get a few classic Austen proposals. The misunderstandings and misconceptions are just so clever and fun. 
  • The wit and cleverness in the writing are just gorgeous. From the ways Emma interacts with other characters to the social paradigms, letter writing, marriages and dances, there is so much to love in this novel. 
  • This is Austen’s only novel named after its protagonist. And while I have heard it’s her masterpiece, it’s hard for me to choose a favorite Austen novel lately. 
  • I’ve recently started collecting beautiful editions of classic novels (just starting my Penguin Clothbound Collection!) and there are so many gorgeous editions of this novel out there. I love the cover below.

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Emma by Jane Austen follows the story of the protagonist by the same name as she blunders through matchmaking and learns about her own heart. Goodreads summarizes, “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. 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.

Emma is a relatable and intriguing protagonist. She isn’t perfect. In fact, she makes more mistakes than the average Austen heroine. She thinks she’s better at reading people and making matches than she is. And she is often a bit self absorbed and even condescending to those around her. She is human. But that makes her all the more endearing and realistic. But she sure tries to do better and be better which is commendable. I love where she ends the novel after she realizes that she has hurt Harriett and others. But I also completely believe she deserves her happy ending with the man she was destined to love all along. 

The characters in this novel are classic Austen in their widespread personalities and memorable antics. I am impressed with the way Austen effortlessly creates such different characters from the loftiness and impropriety of Mrs Elton to the endearing naivety of Harriett Smith. There was such a fun cast of characters in this little village of Highbury. Favorite characters for me this time were Mr Knightley (of course, he is one of Austen’s best heroes!), Miss Bates (she really made me laugh and her situation is actually really interesting), and Mrs Weston (a friend and mentor we can all aspire to!). I also have a new respect and love for Emma, our imperfect but completely endearing heroine. 

I am always in awe of how Austen creates such riveting, engaging stories where the action surrounds a look or a sigh. This novel is no exception. It remains the story of a small group of people in a small village outside of London. None of them have traveled extensively (only Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax go further than London) and their affairs focus on their small community. Not a lot of action happens in this story (the action climax being the outing to Box Hill). But it is so iconic and engaging. How? The conversations between characters are often multi-leveled in their meanings. People can mean a multitude of things in a single phrase. There are social gatherings and every movement is important. Something small like a dance can create a problem or a dream. Characters interact and grow in small, subtle ways. And all our favorites find their happily ever afters. In truth, I’m not sure exactly how Austen does it all. But I’m sure glad she did.

 

There are several spot on adaptations of this novel out there, and I am itching to watch them again after finishing the book. Sometimes when I love an adaptation so much, I’m surprised when the book doesn’t follow it exactly. Haha. Emma adaptations are favorites of mine.

  • I recommend the Gwyneth Paltrow 1996 film for newbies to the story. It’s easy to follow and a shorter version of the story. It’s more Hollywood so the plot is more fast paced. Also Ewan McGregor plays Frank Churchill which is a lot of fun.
  • I also enjoy the Kate Beckinsale adaptation which creates the world and characters how I imagine them (Mr Knightley is portrayed as older which is truer to the book). It’s a little more bland and potentially boring if you’re unfamiliar with the story.
  • For fans of the novel, or for those willing to put in more time, the 2009 BBC adaptation is a recent favorite of mine as well. It stars Romola Garai as Emma and has a series of 45 minute episodes that make it very true to the novel. I love Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley as well!

Regardless of which you watch, I think it’s so fun to see Austen adaptations as the stories come to life and the characters become all the more real.

Overall, I loved this reread of Emma. The characters and stories were fun to rediscover and I loved Emma’s journey to love and true kindness. A must read for Austen fans and a great novel to introduce you to this classic author!

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Which is your favorite Jane Austen novel?
Are you an adaptation fan? Which are your favorites?

This novel is my 26th finished on my list for The Classics Club! Check out my full list here. For more info on the club, click here.

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13 thoughts on “[Emma]: A Review

  1. Pingback: August Wrap Up and September TBR – greenish bookshelf

  2. I reread Emma earlier this year and it was SO delightful. I also watched the Gwyneth Paltrow version again and it as very good. I’d forgotten about Ewan MacGregor! I have the BBC version in my “list” on Amazon Prime – who knows when I’ll get to it, though! This is a book that I can read again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

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