Published: May 16th, 2012 (first published 1815)
Read from May 11th to 27th, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
'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 protegee 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.
This is one of those books where it's hard to really say anything in a review because it's a classic. Clearly, it's a good book. I randomly stumbled on most of Jane Austen's novels being free for the Kindle, and spontaneously decided that I was going to try and read them all this summer. Emma was the first one I picked up. I'd read Pride and Prejudice in middle school (and seen the Keira Knightley movie multiple times) and Sense and Sensibility in high school, and I was interested in seeing how I would feel about Jane Austen now.
I ended up enjoying Emma just as I had the other two Jane Austen books that I read. There is a shallowness to her books, which is something that only becomes clearer to me as I get older, but the books are also very aware of their shallowness, which is what makes it enjoyable to me. The books are great at examining the culture they are set in, and I find that culture both fascinating and frustrating at times. The frustration in Emma definitely came through for me in the way that Emma focused on people's class. She is very clear at the beginning of the novel that if Harriet marries someone of a certain status, they will never be able to be friends again. As someone coming from a different time, such an outlook really angered me, even though I knew that it was realistic to the time period.
Honestly, even though that was a bit frustrating, I really did like Emma as a character. I'd read before that she was supposed to be unlikeable, and while I found her a bit irritating, I did care for her and want things to turn out the best for her. I think that was only helped by Mrs. Elton's presence later in the novel. While Emma and Mrs. Elton strike me as very similar in many way, Mrs. Elton was far more unlikeable to me, perhaps just because of the narration. At any rate, she made Emma a far more likeable character as far as I'm concerned, and I found myself sympathizing with Emma more and more as I read, even though there was never a point where I completely disliked her.
I did really enjoy this book, and it made me look forward to reading more of Jane Austen's novels this summer. While it's a bit on the shallow side, it's enjoyable, and I enjoy exploring what life was like for women of Emma's status in this time period. It's shallowness really indicates a lot about what women who were at least relatively well off were concerned with and what their lives were like, and I think that's what fascinates me the most about Austen's books.