Emma by Jane AustenEmma by Jane Austen
Number of pages: 474 pages
My copy: ebook, free from Amazon

‘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.

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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. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

I want to be Anne Elliot

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Number of pages: 271
My copy: Bantam Classics edition

Eight years ago Anne Elliot bowed to pressure from her family and made the decision not to marry the man she loved, Captain Wentworth. Now, circumstances have conspired to bring him back into her social circle and Anne finds her old feelings for him reignited. However, when they meet again Wentworth behaves as if they are strangers and seems more interested in her friend Louisa. In this, her final novel, Jane Austen tells the story of a love that endures the tests of time and society with humour, insight and tenderness.

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Oh dear, where should I start with this novel?

I’ve heard a lot about Persuasion from my Austen friends, but I never really thought of picking it up until one day that I found myself without a book in the mall while waiting for my brother. My first Austen read was Pride and Prejudice, and I was planning to read Sense and Sensibility next, because…well, it seemed like the next logical choice, right?

But everyone I know seemed to really love Persuasion so that won while I was looking for the next book to read.

Suffice to say it waited on my shelf before I actually got to read it. At least it didn’t wait for 2 years as P&P did, but if I didn’t force myself to read this, I don’t think I would have finished it at all.

And you know what, I’m glad I did. :)

A little background on why I had to force myself to read this book.

I’m not a fan of classics. I made a resolution last 2006 to read 10 classic books in a year but only got to one (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee). The next year I didn’t read any and last year…I got to one, too. It’s weird because when I was a kid, I remember reading A Little Princess and The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables without even complaining of their old language. But now, I’d pick another book over a classic book any day.

While I was planning one of my NaNoWriMo novels, I read a lot of references to classics that I couldn’t relate to because I didn’t read them. Then I read Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and I felt left out because I don’t know most of the characters he mentioned in the series. I realized that if I want to be a writer, and if I want to be really well-read, I’ve got to pick up some classics and read them. I mean, they have got to be good — they wouldn’t be classics if they weren’t, right?

Now I’m still learning to appreciate classics. They are still not my first pick among the books I have, but I’m giving myself a dose every now and then. It takes a while for me to get through the language, and if I stop reading for a couple of days I’m bound to get lost, but it’s a learning process I suppose. It’s a challenge, and well, I like this challenge, so yeah.

Oh, and classic books can be downloaded as ebooks for free, so that is definitely a perk. :P

Back to Persuasion.

It took me a while to really get into this book. I admit the first few pages kind of made my head hurt, because I couldn’t get into the language. But once Anne Elliot finally showed herself in the book, I started getting comfortable and I actually started liking it. A lot.

I think the thing that really struck me here was Anne Elliot herself. I loved Elizabeth Bennet in P&P, but I realized how much I loved Anne more in this novel. Elizabeth was a feisty and strong-headed woman, someone who you’d want to have as a friend. Anne was someone who I want to be. She’s emotionally mature, with the way she deals with her family and her emotions especially with Captain Wentworth. She knows when to speak up and when to let it be. She keeps her appointments despite what other people say, and she has her mind and heart in the right place. It was sad that she’s such a social outcast in her family, but I think that gave her the character that made her so lovable. I bet she doesn’t even need to take some adult acne treatment, and if she needed to, she would have taken it with much grace.

Who wouldn’t want to be her, seriously?

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