Thea Reviews this book…

Who wrote this book and when?
Jane Austen had this book published on her 40th birthday in December, 1815.

Has there been a movie made of this book?
Many of them:

1972 – a BBC miniseries starring Doran Godwin as Emma
1995 – an adaptation was made called “Clueless” starring Alicia Silverstone
1996 – a made for TV movie starring Kate Beckinsale
1996 – a Hollywood movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow

Who are the main characters?
Emma Woodhouse – a very wealthy 21 year old who believes she is gifted as a matchmaker
Harriet Smith – a young woman with a mysterious past, low connections, and one of Emma’s best friends
Mrs. Weston – Emma’s former governess (Miss Taylor) and now married to a gentleman
Jane Fairfax – a very elegant young woman who was born into a poor family, then orphaned and is very reserved, she is rumored to have had an affair with her best friend’s husband
Frank Churchill – the stepson of Mrs. Weston from her husband’s first marriage, he was raised by his mother’s mother and very rarely visits
Mr. George Knightley – a very old friend of the Woodhouse family and dear friend of Emma’s
Mr. Elton – the vicar, who has determined to be married wealthy
Miss Bates – an old maid who lives with her mother and is from a formerly wealthy but now poor noble family, she is Jane Fairfax’s aunt
Mr. Martin – a local farmer who is in love with Harriet Smith
Isabella Knightley – Emma’s sister, married to Mr. John Knightley
John Knightley – Emma’s brother in law, Mr. George Knightley’s brother
Mr Woodhouse – Emma’s father who constantly worries about everyone’s health

What’s it about?
Miss Emma Woodhouse is a very wealthy young lady who lives with her widowed, hypochondriac father. She has determined to never marry, as it would separate the two of them. The story begins with Mr. Woodhouse lamenting the loss of Emma’s governess and good friend, Miss Taylor, who has married the wealthy widower Mr. Weston.

Emma believes herself to be the matchmaker in the Weston’s marriage and then begins to try and set up her newest best friend, Harriet Smith, with every eligible young man who comes along. This brings many painfully hilarious situations which eventually make Emma question her own ability as a matchmaker and her commitment to remaining single her whole life.

Why is this book a classic?
Well, honestly, pretty much any book written by Jane Austen can be considered a classic. This, though, is considered her most perfectly written novel. I’m not sure why, possibly because everybody is content by the end of the book.

Why should I read this book?
To read about a Jane Austen character who ISN’T poor and destitute and desperate for a rich husband.

Has it won any awards?
It predates the modern award era.

Favorite quotes:
“It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind; but when a beginning is made – when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though silghtly, felt – it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.” – p 222

“Emma denied none of it aloud and agreed with none of it in private.” – p 306

Anything else?
Jane Austen believed Emma Woodhouse to be her most unlikeable character, but most people declare her to be their favorite or second only to Elizabeth Bennet.

This is also the last book published by Jane Austen before she died. Two of her books – “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion” were published posthumously.

Personal thoughts:
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’ve enjoyed other Jane Austen novels. Of course, I’m one of those snobs who considers every Austen novel pale compared to “Pride and Prejudice.” For me, there were very few likeable characters, and some who were annoying enough to want to leap into the story and karate chop them – which I suppose is a sign of a talented author. As if Austen needed to prove this again. I believe my biggest beef is that Emma Woodhouse struck me as a very unfeeling character. Her claim of immunity to love set cause for humor, of course, but she was so convincing in this claim that it made almost every attempt at developing romance in the story tedious. She just wasn’t the spunky character I’ve come to expect from Jane Austen…

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