I read Emma right after Northanger Abbey because I moved to England and wanted to read most of her books here. It is a shame that I still haven’t visited Jane Austen’s home in Bath, but as soon as the pandemic ends, I’ll visit it. Austen is an exquisite British author. Fortunately, I can easily visualise gardens, houses and landscapes in her books now that I live in the UK.
Emma was Jane Austen’s favourite novel. Even though I can’t compare without reading other novels, I can say that Emma is an excellent novel. All the characters I like and dislike were so vivid and so real that they became a part of my life after a while.
If I want to summarise Emma, I would say it is about three girls’ experiences, each from different classes and with characters, and their adventures on the way to marriage. But of course, there is also dark humour that Austen elaborated on class distinction. I call it dark humour because what I’m reading now seems pretty ridiculous to me, but all and more were reality.
Reflecting on the lives in Surrey of the regency period has also led me to do a lot of research on the beautiful Surrey region I live in. In fact, at one point in the book, I was excited for no reason when Frank’s family moved to Richmond. So I’m glad I’m reading Jane Austen here now.
I am sure that everyone who reads the book will love it, and I am sure that you will think about every character, but you will not like them all. I wouldn’t say I like Emma in any way, and I couldn’t believe what happened at the end. I’d better not give too many spoilers. And please, don’t watch the TV show or movie without reading the book. Believe me; you won’t have any pleasure. Enjoy!
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Emma Woodhouse is a wealthy, exquisite, and thoroughly self-deluded young woman who has “lived in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
Jane Austen exercises her taste for cutting social observation and her talent for investing seemingly trivial events with profound moral significance as Emma traverses a gentle satire of provincial balls and drawing rooms, along the way encountering the sweet Harriet Smith, the chatty and tedious Miss Bates, and her absurd father Mr. Woodhouse–a memorable gallery of Austen’s finest personages.
Thinking herself impervious to romance of any kind, Emma tries to arrange a wealthy marriage for poor Harriet, but refuses to recognize her own feelings for the gallant Mr. Knightley. What ensues is a delightful series of scheming escapades in which every social machination and bit of “tittle-tattle” is steeped in Austen’s delicious irony. Ultimately, Emma discovers that “Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common.”
Virginia Woolf called Jane Austen “the most perfect artist among women,” and Emma Woodhouse is arguably her most perfect creation. Though Austen found her heroine to be a person whom “no one but myself will much like,” Emma is her most cleverly woven, riotously comedic, and pleasing novel of manners.
Rich in comedy, romance, wit and satire, Jane Austen’s six novels are also pin-sharp reflections of her social and geographical milieu in and around Hampshire, Bath and Dorset. The daughter of a Hampshire clergyman, Austen was born at Steventon Parsonage on 16 December 1775. The seventh of eight children, she grew up in a happy and close-knit family, and the careers and families of her brothers (two clergymen, two admirals, and one adopted by wealthy relations) inform her stories. She started writing at a young age, and her juvenilia includes dramatic sketches, spoofs and poems.
Friends and family circulated her writings and wooed publishers, but it was over a decade before Sense and Sensibility (1811) went into print, soon followed by Pride and Prejudice (1813), which she called ‘my own darling child’. In his journal, Sir Walter Scott contrasted her ‘exquisite touch’ with his own ‘Big Bow-Wow’ approach, praising the way she made ‘commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment.’
Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice both revolve around sisters, and Austen’s loving alliance with her only sister Cassandra lasted all her life. Both Jane and Cassandra had romances, but, like Austen’s heroines, refused to marry for the sake of marriage. They remained single, supporting their mother after the death of their father in 1805. In 1809, Austen moved with her mother and her sister to Chawton, a tranquil Hampshire village.
There, in a house given to them by her wealthy brother Edward, Austen spent her happiest years. All six of her novels date in their finished form from this period. Mansfield Park was published in 1814 and Emma, with its heroine whom Austen half-jokingly predicted ‘no one but myself will much like’, in 1815. Austen died, aged only 41, on 18 July 1817, leaving the subtle Persuasion and her Gothic satire Northanger Abbey to be published later that year.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: