Review | Emma by Jane Austen

Ah, Austen. The original writer of Rom Coms.

emma

Summary

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, inspired by the success of matching her governess, Anna Taylor, and Mr. Weston, endeavours to help the rest of the community of Highbury according to her personal philosophy. Her primary projects are to find the parson, Mr. Elton, a wife, and to bring up the illegitimate daughter of nobody knows whom, Harriet, to the social standing that she (obviously) so rightly deserves.

But Harriet and Mr. Elton aren’t the only concern. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill, is coming to town, as is the spinster, Miss Bates’ niece, Jan Fairfax.

Only romantic hi jinx can ensue. (With Mr. Knightley to criticize the entire way.)

Plot

Emma is basically a slice of life novel. Almost pseudo-pastoral. It reminds me of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, where people get into messy situations, only to come out where they started, only paired up with the right person.

The funny thing about Emma is that there sort of is no plot. Sure, there are failed attempts at courtship and secrets and revelations, but with a novel that ends with a marriage…that didn’t really seem to be the point. Emma begins the novel with no intent on marriage, and until the last quarter, I didn’t really believe it. Sure, there were subtle hints, but nothing enough to constitute hard core shipping.

The point of the plot isn’t watching people get matched up. It’s about watching Emma mess up, and realizing the truth a little too late, and I’m surprisingly fine with that.

The only problem is that the story can feel very boring at times, especially if you’re not fond of the characters.

Characters

Emma is remarkably static. She’s still handsome, clever and rich. And she’s still spoiled, pretentious, and . The only thing that changes is that she’s slightly less ignorant. And I’m okay with that.

Knightley, likewise, does not change either. He starts the novel stuffy, critical, and strict, and he ends the novel that way too. This is the same with air-headed Harriet, talkative Miss Bates, stoic Jane, picky Mr. Woodhouse, and eccentric Frank.

And while I usually hate static characters, that’s kind of the point of this genre. This story isn’t about character development, it’s about character action, and given the plethora of character types, Emma pulls this off rather easily.

Writing

Austen’s writing, which while I’d love to call it flawless, is still really good. I love the threads of irony, the witty banter, and the misunderstandings.

My only complaint? It can drag on at some parts.

Themes

Emma is about recognizing your faults, and living with them. It is about looking at the world around you. It’s not about changing yourself to make the world better, it’s about learning how to use what you have to make the world better.

And I think that’s a better idea than thinking we have to change. It’s wrong to think someone must change in order to better themselves. And I like how Emma explores this idea.

Final Verdict

Emma is full of twists and turns and remarkably ends up right where it started. It’s my favourite Austen story, and I’m glad I actually read the novel.

Recommendation: Buy. If you love period romances, chick lit and/or rom coms,  this book is definitely for you.

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2 thoughts on “Review | Emma by Jane Austen

  1. I recall my classmates hated this book the most of those we read in Fiction as Genre, which surprised me. I guess it being a mandatory read had something to do with that as I think the book is best read as a lighthearted, lazy afternoon sort of book. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s far from my favorite Austen novel, but still an entertaining story.

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    1. Haha, well we were reading Tristram Shandy in the class that I read Emma for…and I don’t think anything beats Tristram Shandy on the scale of student dislike (except perhaps Paradise Lost)

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