Emma by Jane Austen
Public Domain Books, 474 pages
‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall’
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 protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.
I wasn’t sure what Austen to read this year until my book club did the choosing for me. Emma won as this month’s choice of read, so I knew I was going to read it early this year. Then I came across Miss Match by Erynn Mangum and found out it was based on Emma. I didn’t really like the former, and that made me wary with this book, thinking maybe I wouldn’t like this either (but I kind of doubted that, since this is a classic, and I’ve liked Austen so far).
Emma is about Emma Woodhouse, a 21-year-old woman who’s swore never to marry not because of past hurts but because she feels that she is perfectly content with her life. This doesn’t stop her from meddling with other people’s affairs, though and she’s decided to appoint herself a matchmaker for her new friend Harriet Smith, after she had proven that her matchmaking skills are good based on her old governess getting married to someone she matched her with. This meddling starts the mess in all of Emma’s life as she finds her carefully laid out plans unraveled, and she realizes that maybe she doesn’t always get it right. With a cast of other interesting and sometimes annoying characters, Emma finds out a thing or two about love from the most unexpected people.
Talk about a slow reading. I know I read classics very slowly because of how it was written, but Emma is probably the book that I took the longest time reading, since it takes me about 2-3 days to finish a book. Emma took me more than two weeks. At times I wanted to stop reading and pick it up sometime else, but I know that if I do that, I will get completely lost in the story and would have to start again.
Emma is highly amusing, even if it can get boring sometimes. I had to laugh at the long lines of dialogue — and I mean pure dialogue since there wasn’t much action being described as the characters talked. It made me imagine that they were all just standing around and talking in their long skirts and suits without really doing anything else but that. Sometimes I wonder if there was a point with all the dialogue and the number of names mentioned in the first few chapters got me so dizzy that I couldn’t keep track anymore.
Here’s a not-so-secret: I spoiled myself with the ending. Somewhere during the first part of the book, I decided to go on Wikipedia and read about the novel just so I know what to expect. I read the summary and continued reading the novel, watching out for the key scenes mentioned in the synopsis. I don’t think it made the novel less of a fun reading experience for me, but it did remove the surprise factor a bit.
The thing I realized about Emma is how different the heroine is from the two Austen heroines I’ve read: Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliot. I read in a review once that people always read and liked Pride & Prejudice first, enjoyed Emma more but loved Persuasion. I find that I have a different type of relationship with the books because of the heroines. Elizabeth Bennett is someone I’d want to be friends with while Anne Elliot is someone I wanted to be. Emma Woodhouse, on the other hand, is someone I know I am before I can become Anne Elliot. It’s like Emma is younger version of these two other heroines — the not so mature yet still smart heroine that grows into a character you’d love if she decides to learn from her mistakes. Emma is flawed and annoying at times, and I can say that I related to her more than I expected I would. It’s almost like looking in the mirror sometimes, and it’s funny because it lessens the annoyance I had with Emma at the first parts of the book.
I can say that Miss Match was definitely a lot like Emma, but even so, I find myself less irritated with Emma than Laurie. Maybe Laurie was really just irritating to me, period. It makes me wonder again if I was/am anything like Laurie, and if I saw the things I hated about myself in her. Maybe I did. The difference between Emma and Laurie is Emma seemed to have learned how to be a proper lady in the end while Laurie just kept on being…meddling. But that may be because it’s a trilogy, and there’s more character growth in the next books.
But I digress. Emma is an enjoyable read, despite its length. Was I ever so glad when I finished it! It does get better by the third part of the book, so if you’re reading it, just keep on because it gets interesting. While it’s not my favorite Austen novel (this still goes to Persuasion), I liked Emma a lot more than I expected I would. Like the other Austens I’ve read, the ending made me sigh in happiness, and made me close the (e)book with a smile. :)
My copy: free ebook from Amazon Kindle store