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Emma, by Jane Austen

1 review

samchase112's review against another edition

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challenging funny lighthearted relaxing slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


She was one of those, who, having once begun, would be always in love.

I think that each Austen novel I read, I like it even more than the last. Emma was just so much fun to read! The plot revolves around a series of failed matchmaking attempts and assumptions, which leads to tons of delicious irony; if you've been following my reviews for a while, you know I LOVE irony (see: Oedipus Rex), so this was perfectly aligned to my interests. Beyond that, I also loved the drama surrounding the characters and how invested I became in everything going on. Becoming emotionally invested in characters is honestly part of the magic ofJane Austen.

Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing; but I have never been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.

I have heard that when sitting down to write this book, Jane Austen proclaimed that she would "write about a character whom no one would like but herself." Sadly, Austen, you did not achieve your goal; Emma was haughty, dramatic, and self-absorbed, yet I couldn't help but adore her. All her blunders just highlighted the irony, and the consequences were fantastically dramatic. The rest of Highbury, and those associated with it, had such a quirky vibe to it. Each contributed to Emma's development as a character in unique way. Mr. Woodhouse was so adorable in his concern for everyone around him, and Emma's treatment and obvious care for him was so sweet. Miss Bates, Mrs. Weston, Mr. John Knightley, Mrs. Elton, and Mr. Weston provided wonderfully entertaining dialogue and plot progression.

I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him.

Harriet Smith: a sweet, naive, girl that presumes everyone is in love with her, and encouraged by her friend Emma. Poor Harriet, Emma is such a bad influence on her. I'm glad they aren't friends anymore, because the narration makes more sense that way. Mr. John Knightley was hilarious; his attitude towards going out, society, and children reminds me of Archie from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (that scene in season two, "3 kids!"). I understood the real relationship between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill pretty early on, but it was still satisfying when they finally got together. All the secrets and small looks and manners finally make sense to the rest of the characters in the book. Poor Jane had to endure so much. It's so different from when Edward Ferrars hid his engagement in Sense & Sensibility, primarily because the result is so different. I loved how Mr. Knightley knew everything that was going on, and everyone just ignored him. He's just being the observant, smart, awesome guy he is! We support Mr. Knightley!

I cannot make speeches, Emma...If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.

Speaking of...Mr. Knightley was such a gentleman, and I loved how he challenged Emma. Their relationship was so cute, especially the way they developed from friends to...more. We're just going to ignore the age difference, because it's so weird to think about it; I know it made sense back then, but it's awkward for me, a contemporary reader. Their banter was so entertaining, I loved the scenes with them in it. Emma's attitude towards him was so obviously her being in love, and it was so funny that she didn't realize it until so close to the end.

This sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults.

One of my absolute favorite scenes was when Mr. Elton gives Harriet and Emma his riddle, and they analyze it meticulously. The IRONY was so amazing, and so entertaining. It was a hilarious scene that really made an impression on me, and I just had to mention it here. I also adored the ball scenes - or lack thereof - in this book, because I feel like they really showcased the culture of that time without being in my face; they also actually advanced the plot, and weren't just thrown in there.

Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.

This book probably has the least amount of secrets and comment on society than any of the others, but it's wonderful anyway. I am going to be listening to the audiobook version later on in the semester and talking it over in class, and I'm excited to see what I learn about it in class. This is definitely one of those books that I can read over and over again, and discover more information, notice more detail, each time. I think that the phrase I most repeated as I read this book was "oh, Emma..." and I'm pretty sure that's the effect Austen was going for. Yay!

Better be without sense than misapply it as you do.

P.S. I just finished watching the BBC Classics series adaptation of this book, and it was FANTASTIC. The producers took some liberties with Emma's more immature character, and Mr. Knightley's more playful nature, especially with that kiss (?!?!) at the end, but otherwise a faithful and thoroughly entertaining adaptation. I highly recommend it.

Reread: March 2019

For class, I listened to the Audible Audiobook version of this novel. It was such a fantastic rendition, I highly recommend it! I must’ve looked pretty ridiculous walking down the street, laughing and smiling and shaking my head at the book...ah well, what we do for books :)

Reread: March 2020

I forgot how delightfully funny Jane Austen is! Emma has always been my favorite Austen lead, because she is who she is and she doesn't care who knows it. I can also now see it in a more academic light, which just increases my enjoyment. Mr. Woodhouse is so adorable and lovable, Frank Churchill sneaky and loving it, Mr. Elton horribly horrible, Miss Bates long-winded and kind, Mr. Knightley proud but wise, Emma just fantastically herself...I love this book!

Reread: April 2021

Listened to the Audible Audiobook for the Books Unbound podcast book club! I had such a good time with this full-cast recording. Emma never fails to delight me!

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