by Jane Austen

What to say about Emma. If I had not been reading this book for a challenge, I would have given up before page 20. And it did not get really interesting for me until about page 300! Even then, I could have put it down at any time. So I have some thanks to give to the 9 for ’09 Challenge for stretching my brain with this one. As I did not really like it, I don’t want to say much about it, and leave it to other bloggers (links below) to give better criticism, analysis and praise. To be short: Emma is about a young woman in 19th century England, whose greatest concern is who her friends will marry. She doesn’t ever want to marry herself, but gets all involved in matching up her friends- and nothing goes as she thinks it will. In the end, everyone ends up being in love with someone other than who we thought- including Emma herself. Oh, and her pet project was to take a lower-class girl, Harriet, and try to educate and culture her, then make her a match with a gentleman. I\’m glad it ended up well for Harriet, I was feeling sorry for her near the end.

On the whole, I found Emma incredibly dull. I’ve read other books (in my school days) set in this time period, even with similar themes, which have far more interesting descriptions and events. Emma is full of musings and plans, veiled conversations and quiet get-togethers. It’s all talk and letters and nothing much seems to happen. (Except for one scene where two ladies walking alone were terrified out of their wits by a band of begging gypsies). The occasional quaint spelling and view of a by-gone way of life was interesting, but that was about it. I admit my mind wandered a lot, as I struggled at almost every sitting to keep from falling asleep over the book- so I probably missed a lot of subtle humor and clever plot things. But I’m not itching to try it again. After Madame Bovary and this one, I’m starting to think that classics just aren’t my cup of tea anymore.

This book reminded me of The Importance of Being Earnest, although I read that so long ago (high school) I can hardly recall what it’s about. And- this may sound silly- at the end I couldn’t help thinking of the Harry Potter books- because at the close of every one of those you find that some of the characters had quite different intentions than you thought all along- or at least, than the main character thought.

Rating: 2/5
367 pages, 1816

17 Responses

  1. I think I liked it better than you did, but I had a REALLY tough time reading it. It was slow and I had to do a lot of re-reading. Most of it was dull. But Emma the character amused me. Don\’t give up on classics yet! Austen is definitely not my cup of tea either. Dickens is much more fun. And the Bronte sisters are much more passionate. Just my opinion. 🙂

  2. The first time I tried to read Emma, I wanted to gouge my eyes out. I was in high school and I became very worried that it meant I couldn\’t appreciate good literature. But I read it again one summer during slow times at the bookstore where I worked, and enjoyed it so much more. I mean – not as much as Clueless. But still, a lot. 😛

  3. What a brave effort for 9 for \’09.I give you an A for trying.But nothing much happened in these ladies\’ lives. Even the PBS dramatization was boring at times.Isabel

  4. I\’m trying to contain myself because I love all of Jane Austen\’s books and Emma is a good one imho. I will grant you that she is annoying and presumptuous and clueless, but I always forgive her because she wasn\’t actually intending to be nasty and she did learn her lesson. Austen is one of the ones I never found it difficult to get through, especially after watching the Firth Pride and Prejudice.I\’m also going to agree to disagree with Trish because, with the exception of Jane Eyre (which is brilliant), I find the Brontë sisters mind-numbingly boring. I really had a hard time getting through them. I still have Tenent of Wildfell and Agnes Grey to go, so I put them on my Classics Challenge list so I would have to finish them.Randomly, audiobooks are great for the books you have trouble getting through. Sometimes a reader can bring it to life or just make it bearable to get through.

  5. I read this a few months ago (review here) – well, listened, actually. I have a really hard time dealing with the language and sentence structure of the classics unless someone\’s reading them to me. I liked it more than you did, but I agree that it\’s a whole lot of talk with very little actually happening.

  6. Bermudaonion- I agree. It takes me a while to feel comfortable and familiar reading such an unfamiliar style.Nymeth- I\’ll be curious if you feel the same- or you might really like it!Trish- Unfortunately I could not get beyond the dullness to appreciate Emma\’s character. I do like Dickens, except the beginnings are so slow!Jenny- I\’m impressed you read it twice!Natasha- I bet in ten years I won\’t remember anything other than what I wrote in this post myself- ha ha!WorkingWords- O dear. Once I saw a film based on an Austen novel (not this one) and though my friends loved it, I was bored silly!BlackSheep- That\’s a good thought. Maybe I\’ll try an audiobook next time. (I\’ve actually never listened to one on my own accord).Fyrefly- It sounds like it would be easier on the ear than the eyes.

  7. My experience with Emma: One summer long long ago, I took an Austen class. We read the books in order. Right before Emma is Mansfield Park. That book was so boring and lifeless and the heroine, Fanny, so utterly lacking in spirit that I was grateful to finish MP and move on to Emma. The writing was so much more lively. It was like pulling open the drapes and opening the windows and letting air into a really fusty room. I\’ll always love Emma for not being like MP……….the two are forever linked for me.

  8. I didn\’t like EMMA, either, when I was young. The author, I thought, was being awfully hard on her protagonist. What a surprise to rediscover the book later in life and read it from an entirely different perspective! But I have to admit that I don\’t at all mind what I call \”slow books.\” Like slow food, like a meandering road trip or walk in the woods, it isn\’t so much what happens (you\’re right: not much does) as just looking around, listening, taking it all in. I still don\’t much appreciate MANSFIELD PARK, but all the other Austens delight me.

  9. Jane Austen… writing about the subtleties of the drawing room while the rest of Europe is in upheaval. The world of her books is very small, but she knows it well and gives enough of its flavor to make me know for sure I\’d go crazy if I actually lived in it!

  10. Of all the Austen books I\’ve read, this is the one I like the least, and the movie too. I think it\’s because Emma is so annoyingly full of herself, and treats her friend so badly – but, the saving grace is that she does learn her mistakes. I don\’t mind it, but it can be dull. I\’m just so happy I loved Middlemarch so much, because it\’s been a long time that I\’ve enjoyed – other than Austen – the classics, any classic, so much! But, Jeremy Northam in the movie version is cute! lol

  11. Austen definitely isn\’t for everyone! Even though I enjoy her writing, for the most part, it is usually pretty slow, and I have to be in the right mindset. There are lots of other classics out there that are much more exciting though! Have you ever read The Scarlet Pimpernel?

  12. P.J. Grath- It\’s quite possible I\’m just at a point in my life where I don\’t have the leisure time to really appreciate a slow book…Janet- Lovely comment. I felt that way when I watched a film adaption of- I think- Sense and Sensibility. Drove me nuts!Susan- I\’m with you. It\’s been a while since I really enjoyed a bona fide classic.Laura- Never read the Scarlet Pimpernel, though I\’ve heard the title. Not really sure what it\’s about.

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