Book Review of a Classic: Emma by Jane Austen

: Jane Austen

Published: 1815

Genre: Classic Romance

Format: Audiobook Narrated by Flo Gibson

Emma Wodehouse is the star of this novel. She’s a beautiful young woman who has been raised in an upper class home in England in the early seventeenth century. Emma is the mistress of the house as her mother is dead and her older sister is married and living in London.

Emma is not completely alone. In addition to caring for her older, hypochondriacal father, she visits the poor and sick in the community and has a regular list of neighbors she calls upon and who call on her. Calling on people is the social norm for this group.

As the novel opens, Emma’s longtime governess and friend, Miss Taylor, is now Mrs. Weston. Emma is happy for Miss Taylor, but sad for herself. Her friend will no longer be devoting all of her time to Emma. To compensate, Emma befriends Harriet Smith and she becomes her project. Emma is determined to raise Harriet up in society and specifically to marry “properly.”

Emma chooses the vicar, Mr. Elton, to be Harriet’s future groom. Emma is skilled at nudging and manipulating both parties toward each other. There is, however, a couple of problems with her plan. Mr. Elton misunderstands Emma’s interest, and deep in her heart Harriet loves another man. Emma’s manipulations hurt Harriet and eventually herself.

There are other interesting “goings on” in the community. There is a Miss Jane Fairfax who comes to visit her aunt, Miss Bates, after a very long absence. Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill, also visits after a long absence. And, Mr. Elton returns after four weeks with a very snooty wife. These changes are somewhat upsetting to Emma. Even her lifelong loyal friend, Mr. Knightly, is acting differently toward her.

Two people remain the same in Emma’s life: her father and her neighbor, the middle-aged spinster, Miss Bates. These two characters provide light humor to the story. Miss Bates constantly talks – about everything. She’s a great source of gossip, but she sees everything in a rosy, positive glow. Mr. Wodehouse, on the other hand, sees illness coming from everywhere, and not just bad weather. A baby coming to visit? Oh no, they carry too many diseases! Emma does a good job managing both of these people, with the exception of one incident.

Emma, the character, was thoroughly enjoyed observing. I didn’t like her as much at the beginning of the story as I did at the end. She grew up over the course of the novel. I think she became a better person. Emma, the novel, I also enjoyed, with the exception of the middle section. It seemed tedious with all the social chatter and machinations on the part of, primarily, the women. The novel is heavy with dialogue which I normally like. People in this book, however, talked on and on. I know its Middle English, but it was tedious.

That is my only criticism of Emma. I’m glad I read it. I also watched the movie version starring Kate Blanchett. She did a superb job of capturing Emma’s personality. I recommend both the book and the movie.

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5 Responses to Book Review of a Classic: Emma by Jane Austen

  1. Kay says:

    I like EMMA, but it’s not my favorite Austen book. That would be SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. I love Mr. Knightly.

  2. I’ve never read this one.

  3. Mystica says:

    Does one ever get tired of Austen? Never!

  4. Beth F says:

    Austen intended us to not like Emma but I ended up liking her too. I’ve seen all the various Emma movies and miniseries and take-offs. I’m not sure which is favorite version … perhaps the more recent 4-part BBC/PBS version.

  5. kelley says:

    I do love the story, but agree the chatter does get tedious. I’ve never seen the movie starring Kate Blanchett. I’ll have to watch it. I always watch the one starring Gwyneth Paltro. Nice. Review.

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