Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever, and rich” and also very interested in matching the people around her. She credits herself with matching up her former governess Miss Taylor (now Mrs Weston) and Mr Weston and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith. Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley, Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton. For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.
I liked Emma better than I thought I would. I always thought that – though I like the movie adaptations I know – Emma would be a better film than book. But it isn’t so: you could see that Austen has grown as a writer and though I have a few contentions, the novel is perfectly entertaining.
[We continue A Bit Spoilery]
I don’t know why thought that Emma would make for a better movie than a book. Though it lends itself to adaptations very well, it is also a very good read. But the movies were very present in my head when I read it. The Gwyneth Paltrow version – which nails Emma, Frank Churchill and George Knightley so very well – and Clueless (which gives us the better Harriet and Elton). But more about it when I’ve re-watched the movies and review them.
Back to the book: First, let me get my quibbles out of the way. (They were rather small.)
One, I love Knightley, he is wonderful, but it wouldn’t have heard if he got to be wrong just once. [He was a little bit in his harsh judgment of Harriet at first, but only a little bit.] Nobody can be that right all the time.
Two, Mrs Elton should have gotten some kind of come-uppance.
Three, the book was amazingly classist. And why that is perfectly understandable for a book of its time, it was a little disturbing. Especially when it came to Harriet and her men.
Four, Knightley fell in love with Emma when she was thirteen. Can I just say, ew.
But other than that: I loved Emma [I think I like her better than Liz Bennett (who was never that much of my favorite anyway), though I still identify to a hazardous degree with Elinor Dashwood], she’s just a great character.
Jane Austen’s writing has gotten yet better since Mansfield Park (which was already notably better than either Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility) a fact that promises great things for the two novels I still have ahead of me and which were published even later.
The book is very funny and despite the fact that I knew exactly how it ends and what happens, I spent the last hundred pages anxious to finish and to hit that sweet point of everything ending well.
Summarising: it did exactly what it was supposed to – entertain and satisfy and generally be wonderful.