I ain’t no auntie, but I am a meddler.
“She is faultless, in spite of all her faults.”
Emma by Jane Austen
Genre: Classic, Romance
I love this book. This is my favourite Jane Austen novel and I’ve reread this a good 3-4 times now. It’s the only Jane Austen novel I’ve reread, so you can guess exactly what I’m going to rate it. No? Issa 5 blessed stars. This is Jane Austen’s most flawless work in my personal opinion. It is fun to note that Clueless is an adaptation of Emma and Clueless has to be one of the best 90’s films ever!
Set in Highbury, London, in the early 18th century, Emma is a novel about a fascinatingly flawed heroine. After her recent success in matchmaking, Emma believes herself to not only be a matchmaker extraordinaire, but an expert in human nature. As Emma has no intentions of marrying, she takes on the naive, sweet and grateful Harriet Smith as her protégé and sets about finding her a husband in Mr Elton instead. Her dear and long-time friend, Mr Knightley, the only one who seems to find flaws in our spoiled, but well-meaning heroine, is always ready to inform Emma that she is not quite right. The arrival of Jane Fairfax captures her fanciful imagination, but the arrival of Frank Churchill opens up the possibility of Emma falling in love. This is a novel of Emma coming to the discovery as to not only how little she truly knows about others, but also about how little she knows herself.
Emma has a wild imagination and sudden hunches that tend to turn out wrong, she is a gossip, she is a meddler, she thinks she knows better than others… but she learns. She learns that she isn’t the expert in love and human relationships she thought she was as Mr Elton turns out to be quite a foul character, and thus begins her self-caution. Every single time I read Emma, I always find Emma so insufferable at the start. And as always, as the novel progresses, I come to love her. When she is proven wrong, she will not staunchly deny it, but self-reflect, learn and show how much she has learnt. She is thoroughly unlikeable at the start, but she is completely loveable by the end. I stan a heroine who grows!
The strength of this book lies in its characters. We have Mr Knightley and y’all know how much I love Mr Knightley, he is dreamy, chivalrous, strong, sensible and all things delicious and good! He is the perfect English gentleman, and if you’re like me and you like good manners, consideration of others’ feelings, and characters who talk sense, then you will love him. Frank Churchill, who is said to represent France (I mean his name if Frank, so I see what you did there, Jane!) is too spontaneous, doesn’t think about the repercussions of his actions, but he is charming, flirtatious and therefore, easily loved. It is basically England v France… and since this is a British novel, I’ll leave you to decide which one wins.
Frank and Emma have a bad influence on each other. They hurt people both indirectly and, on one occasion, quite directly. One of them is Miss Bates. I did find Miss Bates quite annoying because ooh, boy, is she a talker! But, she is harmless, so it was completely uncalled for. But, Emma does make amends. The other person they hurt is Jane Fairfax. Jane is resented by Emma because of her reserve and her superior musical talent, but I couldn’t understand why she dislikes her for the former reason and I will say I can at least tolerate the latter. I really like Jane, she manages to remain true to herself. Emma, also, indirectly hurts Harriet by taking over her life and managing it when she would have been perfectly happy if Emma had left her alone to manage herself.
The ending is perfect, everything is very neatly wrapped up as Austen ties up all loose ends. Everybody ends up with who they should be with and with who they love. There is a certain melancholy in the ending too. The arrival of Harriet, Frank and Jane gave Emma companions of her own age and throughout the course of the novel, you realise how lonely Emma really is. She is often ensuring her father, a hypochondriac (or as the novel states: valetudinarian), is healthy and happy and Highbury doesn’t afford her an equal in age, sex and intellect. She realises Jane could have been that had she not dismissed her. Despite this, she does find a lifetime of companionship with the people who truly love her.
If you enjoy classics, romance and character-driven stories set in Britain this book is for you. Emma is essentially a coming-of-age novel. The writing style can be hard to get accustomed to if you aren’t well acquainted with classics and especially British classics as the language is very formal. The writing style is vastly different to what you would see in YA, so bear that in mind. But, one must read at least one Jane Austen novel in their lifetime as her novels and characters are timeless, and for me, if I had to pick one to read over and over again, it would easily be Emma.
If you’re looking to watch the film/series: I didn’t enjoy Gwyneth Paltrow’s melancholy portrayal of Emma but Romola Garai portrayed Emma exactly how I imagined her to be in the 2009 BBC series which I watched for the second time after finishing the book. Romola adds liveliness and humour to the character and her facial expressions are just fab (they remind me of Kareena Kapoor!).
All in all, I am one very satisfied reader.
What are your thoughts on Emma? Did you like Emma, the character? Which other Jane Austen novels did you enjoy? What are your thoughts on whether everyone should read at least one Jane Austen novel in their lifetime? Feed my brain in the comments!
Before this Sophski is Out, I have been busy in the last few days because of unforeseen circumstances in my family life, so that has had to take priority and may do so for the next few days. I will respond to everyone soon, and now:
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