Date of Publication: 1815 (Wordsworth Classics)
Number of Pages: 350
Synopsis (from back cover): Jane Austen teased readers with the idea of a “heroine whom no one but myself will much like”: but Emma is irresistible. “Handsome, clever, and rich”, Emma is also an “imaginist”, “on fire with speculation and foresight.” She sees signs of romance all around her, but thinks she will never be married. Her matchmaking maps out relationships that Jane Austen ironically tweaks into a clearer perspective. Judgment and imagination are matched in games the reader too can enjoy, and the end is a triumph of understanding.
Review: For some reason, I always think of Emma, which is the July/August selection for The Book Club Forum’s Jane Austen Book Group, as my least favorite Austen, but I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it. Emma is a very imperfect heroine, but Jane Austen was wrong in supposing that no one but herself would like her. I find Emma to be refreshing as a heroine, and she stands is stark contrast to Fanny Price in Mansfield Park (my least favorite Austen heroine). There is none of Fanny’s timidness or inability to stand up for herself. Emma is independent and strong, and much more modern than other female characters in classic literature. Her mistakes in pride and arrogance are such as we all make on a daily basis. She presumes to understand people’s emotions and thoughts and thinks she has a right to order things as she would have them be…very type “A”, in my opinion. But, as her intentions in every case are good, as she only wants those she loves to be happy and prosperous, one cannot really blame her.
The other characters in this book are also very satisfying, particularly Jane Fairfax and Mr. Knightley. Jane is the poor orphan on whom everyone in Highbury, the village in which Emma lives, dotes upon. Emma, of course, can’t stand her at first, but only because of the knowledge that Jane is superior to her in many ways. How many of us have declared that we don’t like someone simply because they’re better at something than we are? Mr. Knightley, Emma’s neighbor and long-time family friend, is her conscience, calling attention to those errors in judgment that Emma constantly seems to make. He often lectures her, but only in an attempt to set her on a better course. When faced with the prospect of losing him, Emma must confront her own feelings and question her own situation in life.
It’s altogether an enjoyable read, with plenty of twists and blunders, and should appeal to any fan of Jane Austen…or just anyone who wants to read the real version of the movie “Clueless”.