Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review of Emma by Jane Austen

Name of Book: Emma

Author: Jane Austen

ISBN: 0-7607-0166-0

Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics

Type of book: Regency England, 1800s, marriage, fear of diseases and colds, "humor", friendship, class rigidity

Year it was published: 1816 (version I have 1996)


Pretty, bright and born atop the social strata of the English village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse has all anyone would want. But she is fated to become the victim of her own irrepressible willfulness.

Because of hte recent marriage of her friend and governess, Emma fills the void in her life by attempting to "improve" Harriet Smith, a sweet, pretty 17-year-old of unknown parentage. Emma's good-hearted attempts to rearrange the lives of Harriet and other marriageable townspeople are then the incitement to the book's subtle, intricately constructed plot.

Austen employs a sympathetic, gentle satire as she portrays the provincial townspeople-all of whom are good-hearted, but have their own particular streak of ridiculousness. Emma's father, Mr. Woodhouse, is deferred to by all, but maintains an absurd aversion to change and an overweening concern for maintaining what he considers to be a well-measured, healthy lifestyle. The chatty Miss Bates is sweet-tempered, but talks incessantly about everything that comes into view. And then there is Emma herself, who seems to know all but her own heart.

With the tightly weaved movements of the characters and the interplay of their romantic schemes, Emma has elements of a well-done mystery novel. But the book's leisurely exposition and skillful use of irony make it an amusing comedy of manners in which the reader can savor the all-too-familiar foibles of the heart as it becomes a hunter.


For me personally the characters aren't very interesting and seem to be dense and boring. I am trying to figure out what caused for this novel to become boring for me and perhaps its definitely on the dated side rather than anything else. This has some modern overtones but perhaps the dense language caused for the novel to be boring. There is no sparkles or liveliness within. I couldn't relate to any characters and I didn't like them either.


Umm, when you try to match people, be careful because things may not work out.


Very dense plot and the novel is completely from Emma's point of view. It seems as if the author was trying to make the novel interesting but somehow failing to do that, even with multiple people involved. The only positive thing is that at least Fanny wasn't killing the novel like in Mansfield Park. After Mansfield Park I can understand why I liked the novel, but reading it now, I can't understand why I liked it.

Author Information:

Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was rector. She was the seventh child in a boisterous family of six boys and two girls. Reading and playacting were favorite family pastimes, and Austen began writing as a young girl. Her Juvenilia, writen between 1787 and 1795, survive in three notebooks and include Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters. In 1796 she completed another epistolary novel called Elinor and Marianne, later revised to become Sense and Senbility. In 1797 she finished the first version of Pride and Prejudice, called "First Impressions". Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written in 1798 or 1799 as "Susan."

Until 1801, when her father retired and the family moved to Bath, Austen enjoyed a comfortable life, mixing in the best society in the neighborhood, keeping a carriage and a pair of horses, and attending dances at the stately homes of the local gentry. Neither she nor her sister Cassandra married, but the reasons for this remain conjectural, as Cassandra burned or censored Austen's surviving letters after her death. The eight years following the move from Steventon were evidently unsettled and unhappy ones. The Watsons, her only writing from this period, was never completed. But from 1809, when settled again in her beloved Hampshire, until her final illness in 1817, she lived a productive life in a pleasant cottage in Chawton provided by her wealthy brother Edward.

 In 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously: the title page stated only that it was "by a lady." Immediately successful, this first novel was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Mansfield Park in 1814. Emma, written between 1814 and 1815, was "respectfully dedicated" at royal command to George IV. In 1816, already in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised "Susan" into Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18th, 1817. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her favorite brother, Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbery and Persuasion in 1818.


Just like Persuasion and Mansfield Park, I've read this book for a Jane Austen class. I remember that back then I read it straight after Mansfield Park oh how big relief it was! Not irritating or boring at all. Today, although not irritating, I found it boring. This is a very dense book and humor is very hard to spot. All I know is that its about a woman named Emma who makes some mistakes along the way when it comes to matchmaking and is guided by George Knightley, the man who eventually became her husband. Maybe its me but it seems that the more Austen composed novels, the more dense and humorless they have become, or else my mind is not evolved enough to understand them. The novel is also anti-equality and presents a very rigid society along with trying to discourage to help less fortunate rise to it.

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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