STAR RATING: (★★★★☆)
BLURB: Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: (of coursE) ‘It darted through her with the speed of an arrow that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!’
‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.’
READ IF YOU LIKE: 19th Century ramblings about living in the countryside and going to a lot of balls
If you’re going to read Austen, definitely start with this one. It’s your basic formula of romance and friendship, set in a quintessential early 19th C English countryside. It’s different from Pride and Prejudice (also Austen), and in my opinion better, but one thing P&P holds over Emma it is the classic moving scene between Darcy and Elizabeth in which he proclaims his love to her, such a great passage in English Literature scene I can almost recite it word for word. I would have loved to have seen the love affair between Emma and Mr Knightley played out more, and it annoyed me that Austen almost skirts over it- why is Emma so compelled to love Mr. Knightley after being so against marriage for so long? And why does she immediately give in to his declarations of love after proclaiming herself as the ultimate independent heroine ???
This took me SUCH A LONG TIME to read and after finishing it I feel like I’d climbed Everest – it was really hard to push through the middle section, the main developments and plot twists only happen at the end which is always really really annoying in a book. Also it’s one of those books in which an entire 4 page section could have been explained in one sentence, but then I guess the joy of Austen is the way she writes about human emotions and sensibilities, something which you do notice she has a sixth sense for, which you wouldn’t get without her rambling prose passages.
From the impression and previous things I’d heard from this book, I think the reader is meant to thoroughly dislike Emma. I completely disagree, I really enjoyed her independent woman attitude and how she was always messing with people’s love lives. She seemed by far the most grounded character in the novel, along with Mr Knightley, who I think are close contenders for cutest 19th c. couple (as opposed to Darcy+Elizabeth / Jane+Rochester)
Thus concludes my basic covering of Victorian novel reviews – safe to say I am pretty bored of them, and will be reading something slightly more modern now…
tl;dr: Too long, but the best Austen novel I’ve read and I’m glad I took the time to read it. Mr Knightley = bae