Emma – Jane Austen

Posted 20 November, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 38 Comments

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Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Date Finished: November 19, 2008 #66
Published: 1816 Pages: 386
Rating: 4.25/5

So, I’ve kind of noticed that my 4.25 rating is kind of a go-to rating when I really like a book but it just doesn’t have that edge (which I can’t define). If you do ratings, do you have a difficult time rating books–stacking them all up against one another, rating for the writing as well as entertainment? It’s sticky for me and I’ve thought about just doing away with the ratings, but on the other hand I like having them. Maybe I just need to sit down and define what my ratings mean? Maybe this is a conversation for another post.

Emma. That’s what I’m talking about, right? :) Emma is the story of a young woman who has no desire to get married herself, but she loves to play matchmaker to her friends and acquaintances, especially after a particularly successful “match” between her close friend Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston. When her matchmaking endeavors fail between her friend Harriet and Mr. Elton, and she receives criticism from the respected Mr. Knightley, and she becomes tangled up with the strange and elusive Frank Churchill, Emma reevaluates the way that she interacts with others and what she must do to amend the messes and offenses she has created. (Um, really difficult to shortly summarize an Austen novel!)

I really enjoyed Emma. I was kind of dreading it and have put it off for years. Actually, I started it right before grad school, but never picked it back up after the school workload forced me to put it down. Once I did pick it back up, I vowed to take it slowly, and I’m glad I did because this book was really a treat. Austen isn’t one of my favorites–I much prefer the darker Bronte sisters (yes, you know I love Wuthering Heights). I was so familiar with the Pride and Prejudice story line, that when I read the book last winter I wasn’t very enthralled. I liked it, but it didn’t give me the urge to read anything else right away. Now after finishing Emma, I’m excited to visit some of the others that I haven’t read. Yes, I’m still intimidated by the language and the fact that it takes me twice as long to read as a regular novel, but overall I did find the reading very easy to swallow (and follow).

I think part of the reason why I liked Emma a little more than I expected was because on some levels I could relate to Emma, the character. There are thing to like about her, but she also definitely has her faults, whereas Elizabeth Bennett is seemingly perfect (other than her pride…and prejudice). Emma sometimes loses sight of what is really important and she is a little bit of a meddler, but I think she has good intentions. She cares about the happiness of people around her, she just doesn’t always know how to effectively instill happiness in others–and more importantly that it isn’t necessarily her job to make other people happy by “fixing” their lives.

My only complaint, really, with the book is how neatly everything wraps up in the end. Of course I knew what the outcome was going to be (especially having seen the movie Clueless several times in my teenaged years), but to suddenly realize who it is you want to spend the rest of your life with–“duh, I should have known all along!”? I don’t think life is really that clean. And certainly the events leading up to Emma’s discovery are not necessarily “clean” but really, Jane–can’t you write containing the dark sordid details? Why does everything have to fit so well? And what the heck happens to these characters after they are happily married? I guess that’s what the modern day sequels are for. :P

I searched and searched for other reviews of Emma–this is what I came up with. Of course, let me know if I’ve missed yours.
Amanda, Literary Feline, Book Chronicle

38 Responses to “Emma – Jane Austen”

  1. I’ve decided I’m only reading 1 Austen book per year. i’ve read Persuasion and Emma now, and next year I plan to do the Pride & Prejudice thing. After I read them all, I’ll go back and reread The Jane Austen Book Club and hopefully get even more pleasure out of it. :)

  2. Anytime I find a happily-ever-after couple in literature and wonder where it’s going, I think about a passage in Middlemarch where George Eliot compares marriage to “exploring an enclosed basin.” I don’t know that that’s true, but it makes me laugh.

  3. I started out giving ratings, but I quickly stopped because most of the time, a day or two after my review, I would want to change the number I chose. I guess I’m pretty wishy-washy sometimes!

    I’m glad you enjoyed Emma so much! When I read your comment about Elizabeth in parenthesis, I snickered out loud and I scared my cat! I don’t remember Emma at all, and now I want to read it again! Maybe a good book for the 2009 classics challenge!

  4. I think Emma is the most entertaining of Austen’s characters.
    And about the ratings, I love when people rate books–I look for those 4’s and 5’s when looking for book ideas.

  5. I’ve only read one Austen book – Pride and Prejudice, so far though I’ve her others (except this one) in my pile. Like you, I’m intimidated by the language but yet I’m fascinated with it at the same time.

  6. Yes, I often have a hard time giving a book a rating. Usually my rating is based mostly on my personal response to a book, except for in cases when I don’t really like the book, but can see it is very well-written. Then it gets a “3” for “good but just not spectacular for me”. I did end up writing a post describing what’s behind my ratings once…

  7. *amanda – I didn’t love JABC, but I think it’s because I had only read P&P. After seeing the movie and liking it, and after reading a few more of her books I look forward to re-reading it again, also!

    *charley – Middlemarch is one of those that I just didn’t finish. :P Maybe next year! It does make you wonder how happily ever after these characters do live, though!

    *Laura – I change my ratings with time also! And I like looking back and seeing what I rated a book (I didn’t start rating until blogging). So…is that a hint that you want a 2009 classics challenge??

    *Chain Reader – I look for the 4s and 5s as well (I’ve only given one 5 this year!–The Book Thief). Would you say Emma is your favorite Austen novel?

  8. *Melody – I have all her books as well except Persuasion (which I’ve heard is good!). I do love the language, but it is tougher to read. Did you like P&P?

    *Chris – I definitely related to Emma’s “oops” moments; I really liked her as a character. Do you have a favorite Austen book?

    *Jeane – I completely understand what you mean! I’ll have to scope out that post–I don’t remember seeing it.

  9. Wow! Looks like I need to finally give Austen a try. I’ve never read anything by her (EEK!) but maybe this will be the 1st one. Rating a book is hard but I like when people do.

  10. Oh, I love P&P! I’ve only read this book by her so far… but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest in the near future! ;)

  11. I agree totally with the rating system. I rate everything the same but on such a simpler scale than yours. I have thought about coming up with some rating plan as well, but haven’t. I hate to say, but unsurprisingly have never read Jane Austen as her novels do seem intimidating to me too. I have P&P and Emma, but have never picked them up to more than open the book and put it back down with trepidation… I really need to just suck it up and read them.

  12. Book Thief is definitely worthy of a five! I’ve read all of Austen’s books, and I think I like them all for different reasons. But if I had to pick a favorite it would be Mansfield Park, and I think I’m in the minority on that one!

  13. I’ve never read the Book Thief. Hm, maybe I”ll have to add that to my list for next year.

    The reason I liked the Jane Austen Book Club so much was because each section paralleled, from what I knew (I’ve seen movies of P&P and S&S, so I only know a little), the book they were discussing. There were some little things I didn’t like, but for modern fiction, I really enjoyed all the subtle intricacies. One doesn’t normally see those in modern fiction.

  14. I didn’t LOVE Emma. It was quite slow for me most of the way – although I did like how it picked up with the love story in the end. I think I just liked Persuastion, P&P and S&S so much better that it sorta paled in comparison to me :)

  15. *Sam – I liked this one better than P&P, but I think P&P is the general favorite? Hope you like her stuff.

    *Melody – I think I need to let P&P rest a little bit before re-reading it again, but I’m really looking forward to Persuasion.

    *Michelle – I totally understand how you feel–that’s why this one sat on the shelf for years! It definitely takes more work and I had to do a little bit of re-reading until I got into the rhythm of reading something 200 years old, but I liked it. Haha–why is my rating system more complicated??

    *Chain Reader – I think you are in the minority! :) I haven’t read it, but I’ve generally heard that it isn’t as good as the others. You’ve made me very curious!!

    *Amanda – I read JABC *right* before I got married, so it wasn’t the best timing for the book. I would love to re-read it, though, after I’m more familiar with the books. I also remember reading it pretty quickly because I didn’t want to spoil the Austen books. :P Fortunately I have a terrible memory and can’t remember any of the details given in the book.

    *Corinne – Sounds like I’ve got some others of hers to really look forward to! I haven’t heard as much about Persuasion, but everyone seems to really like it!

  16. Reading this reminded me that I completely left my classics challenge out, I’ve only read one and didn’t even finish it!Despite being so excited when I joined. I just didn’t get around them:(
    Never read any Jane Austen, but this one sounds fun, so I will read it maybe next year!
    I usually like neat endings so I don’t think I’d be annoyed by it. It’s fiction, not life, i think it’s ok to indulge in it from time to time:P
    and what happens next? what? don’t they live happily ever after?

  17. One of the biggest complaints about Jane Austen is that she wraps everything up to quickly and neatly. I am a devoted Janeite. I try to read all 6 major novels every year.
    I’ve been debating ratings. I actually left them off my last few reviews. I dunno. I can’t decide what I want to do. Reading some of the comments here makes me think I should keep using them.

  18. I loved the PBS Austen series last winter; they showed every book she wrote on film, and the films were outstanding! I’ve only read Pride and Prejudice myself, but some day, some day I hope, I’ll get to reading the rest.

  19. *Valentina – No worries! If I wasn’t hosting I would probably have a really difficult time finishing! :P I hope you like Austen–and I’m guessing that they probably do all live happily ever after like Austen intended. :)

    *Jeanette – Wow–six books every year, very impressive! Last year I read two, but this year only this one. Maybe next year I’ll try to do two again. And yes, I like seeing people’s ratings!! But I guess it’s a personal decision to keep them or not.

    *Veens – I’m going to try to email you an answer. If that doesn’t work then I’ll come back here

    *Bellezza – I tried tried tried to watch the PBS version of P&P. My friend and I have watched it over two nights and STILL didn’t finish (this has been going on for months now). I just can’t get into it! Maybe I’ll have to check out some of the others, though.

  20. I’ve never read Emma. I’ve only read Pride & Prejudice. I don’t knwo why but classics seem to fly over my head-not all of them but some. I find them hard to get into. I’m in a reading slump now and having a hard time with them for sure. Glad you liked this one though.

  21. Ratings can be sticky. Although no one but me knows it, I even have high 4’s and low 4’s depending on the book. Maybe I should add it quarters.

    Great review of Emma! I think of all the heroines I’ve met so far in Austen’s books, Emma started out as my least favorite, but she grew on me as the book went on. I think part of it had to do with my inability to identify with her right away. Still, I loved the book.

  22. It’s official: my next Austen novel will be Emma. I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it. Emma herself just sounds so likeable. And plus I used to watch Clueless all the time in my teens too :P

    I know what you mean about her endings being too neat, and I do like some dark details in my books as well…but I forgive her. Maybe it’s because I’m expecting the books to be like that to begin with?

  23. *Dar – I have a really difficult time with classics as well and I always end up feeling that I don’t quite get as much out of them as other people (because I have to work hard with the language). But, I am finding that the more I read, the easier it gets–sometimes. :P Anyway, you are not alone!!

    *Lit Feline – Quarters are silly–even though I use them. Ha ha! I feel like it is a cop-out rating, but 4.5 is basically my highest rating since a 5 has to blow me away, so a 4.25 is pretty darn good. Sometimes I just want to say–to hell with it all! ;) Do you have a favorite Austen book?

    *Nymeth – I hope you enjoy it! And I know what you mean about the neat endings–and yes, I do expect them from some of these books. But I guess that’s why I’ll always go back to the Brontes, or why Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites.

  24. Well, since I’m a freak of nature, and just can’t make myself read Austen, how about I talk about ratings instead? ;)
    I hope you don’t do away with your ratings…I really enjoy seeing them! Of course, I can’t seem to rate books myself, because I just can’t seem to get a handle on how to compare books against one another. Especially books from disparate genres. So I just leave the rating up to smarter people, braver people like you. :)

  25. That post about my ratings, it’s actually a “back-post” which I wrote under an earlier date. You can find the link to it in my navbar (top of the blog).

  26. I like the happily-ever-after stories! Sometimes realistic is nice, but other times, no please keep it rosy!

    I’ve only read P&P and Northanger Abbey but I want to read all of Jane Austen some day. Looking forward to Emma!

  27. Hey Trish, this is your cousin Steph. I just happened upon your blog and I watched your little message about 7 things about you. And I just had a laugh at the bloody Mary thing. I remember doing that in Grandma’s house when we were kids and had totally forgotten about it. Anyway, just wanted to say hi!

  28. I was just thinking that I needed to read (well, listen to – I have an easier time absorbing the language in classics when it’s read aloud for me) more Jane Austen. I’ll have to get this one onto my iPod for when I finish my current audiobook.

  29. I still haven’t read this! Unbelievable.

    And I also have trouble with ratings and decided to clarify my system for next year… I prefer keeping the ratings too, but feel that I’m often too arbitrary.

  30. ratings are too tough for me. I just go over what I think worked and didn’t work. I hope it provides guidance to my blog readers, while allowing them to think for themselves about how they would react to the book.

    If you want to keep ratings, I would definitely outline what you want each to stand for…that would help you when rating books you like, but don’t love. Ok, that’s my two cents.

    I like that emma is flawed, more so than Elizabeth Bennet, but at the same time I find Elizabeth’s faults more dire. Emma’s biggest fault is that she cares too much…about what others think and about her friends’ lives and whether they are happy whereas Elizabeth is full of prejudice, particularly if first impressions don’t go well. It’s hard to win her over once favor is lost.

  31. *Debi – You are not a freak of nature!! Jane Austen definitely isn’t my first choice. :P Anyway, rating books is hard, but I like looking back on them!

    *Jeane – Thanks! Now that you mention it, I think maybe I had seen it before.

    *Rebecca – I think happily-ever-after is like comfort food, and that’s great sometimes. The two you’ve read are the ones I had read before this one–but I think I liked this one the best out of the three!

    *Steph – Hey lady!! Ya, those crazy Bloody Mary memories…! I’m so glad you popped by!

    *Fyrefly – I think I’m the opposite–I think if I had someone reading Austen to me I would immediately zone out! Haha–I might have to give it a try, though. Hope you like this one!

    *Joanna – My ratings are arbitrary, but oh well. :P I’ll have to pop by and see how you clarified your rating!

    *Serena – yes, i’ve been meaning to write one of those clarifying posts about ratings, but I’ve been lazy! haha.

    Interesting what you say about Emma versus Elizabeth and in many ways I agree with you, but I felt that Emma was a little unfair and prejudicial at times as well. Of course, I am not an expert in these matters! Do you have a favorite Austen book?

  32. I have a terrible time with numerical ratings, although I did have a rating chart to help me (in my sidebar) for a time. Then, I ditched it. I haven’t read Emma, yet, but I will. I must. I adore Jane Austen.

  33. It’s funny, I’m exactly the opposite. I love Austen and find the darker Brontë sisters difficult to wade through. I did like Shirley and Jane Eyre, but Villette took me two tries and I’ve not been able to tackle The Tenant of Wildfell Hall yet. Even the blurbs for that depress me. As sorry as I am to say it, I just cannot like Wuthering Heights. I keep trying to re-read it, but can’t stick to it.

    Anyway, point being, I lov Emma, even though I sometimes really want to slap her. It’s like you say, she really does care about others and has a good heart, despite her faults. I suppose the fairytale ending just goes to prove I’m a closet romantic, even though I try and keep that particular door closed. :P

    Thanks for the reveiw!

  34. How do you get so many comments!!!

    I’m with you on preferring the Brontes to Jane, but I do love Jane. I acutally like the neat and tidy endings. We can’t ever get those in real life, but we can get them in Jane Austen.

    So far, I’d list Persuasion as my favorite.

    The comments here are making me think about rating books again.

  35. *Bookfool – I remember the chart on your sidebar, and I remember when you had a tough time with the ratings and ditched them. I just can’t bring myself to do it. :P I can’t wait to hear what you think of Emma! Do you have a favorite Austen book?

    *Blacksheep – Haha–I think you are definitely not alone in not liking Wuthering Heights!! I read it for my senior project because Pride and Prejudice was already taken–I wonder if I had gotten my first choice of P&P if my opinion would have gone the other way? And I won’t tell anyone about your closet tendencies. :)

    *CB – I don’t know! It took a long time for me to start getting more than a few comments here and there, but it seems in the past few months it has exploded. A lot of the commenters are regulars, which feels great–but I also spend a lot of time visiting their blogs and commenting (I feel like I know a lot of these people on some level).

    I also find that with the classics I get more comments than with the newer books. With ARCs I’m lucky to get a handful of comments! Interesting, huh? BUT, this is my probably most commented on *book* post so far. Sorry–I’m sure that was a rhetorical statement. :P

    I really want to read Persuasion!! That is the only Austen book I don’t own, but it is the one that I’ll probably have to pick up to read in 09.