Sunday, February 11, 2007

Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief. - from Emma

I begin already to weigh my words & sentences more than I did, & am looking about for a sentiment, an illustration, or a metaphor in every corner of the room. Could my Ideas flow as fast as the rain in the Storecloset it would be charming. – Letter to her sister Cassandra, 1809

Emma by Jane Austen
Dover, 1999 (originally published in 1816)
Fiction; 328 pgs

Started: 02/03/2007
Completed: 02/11/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

Where Book Came From: TBR Shelves (where it has sat since 07/2005, when I went through a “must buy and eventually read” all of Jane Austen’s novels).

Reason for Reading: I had been meaning to read another Jane Austen novel for quite some time. Emma is my 4th selection for the Winter Classics Challenge and my 2nd for the 2007 TBR Challenge.

From the Publisher: Emma is the story of the eponymous Miss Woodhouse who, having lost her close companion Anne Taylor to marriage, sets out on an ill-fated career of match-making in the town of Highbury. Taking as her subject the pretty but dreary Harriet Smith, she manages to cause misunderstandings with every new tactic she employs. Though precious and spoilt, Emma is charming to all around her and so it takes her some time to learn her lesson and profit from spending less time worrying about how other people should live their lives.

Comments: What a delightful read! As much as I protested in the beginning over Emma’s character, her conceit and meddlesome nature, I was quite aware that this was exactly as she was supposed to be and would be what gave the novel it’s purpose. And while I never grew to love Emma, I did eventually find myself liking her as the novel went on. Her zest for life, her kind heart, however misguided at times, and her devotion to her family were what eventually won me over. There were a number of other wonderful characters who stole my heart even more so: the older and gentlemanly Mr. Knightley, the reserved but good natured Jane Fairfax, the chatty Miss Bates, and, of course, Mr. Woodhouse with all his grumbling and concerns about health, just to name a few.

Once I settled myself down to spend quality time with Emma, I was immediately swept away by Jane Austen’s novel. I like her style of writing, a product in part of her times no doubt. Like with Pride and Prejudice, I was transported back to England in the early 1800’s. The culture, atmosphere and the characters all brought to life amongst the pages.

Emma is a comedy of sorts and very much a love story. A perfect novel to read in time for Valentine’s Day, I must say. Upon completion of the novel, I found myself smiling with a little tear at the corner of my eye. Jane Austen is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.

Favorite Part: I admit to being immediately smitten with Mr. Knightley. The arguments between Mr. Knightley and Emma were quite entertaining.

Mr. Woodhouse could have been annoying with his complaints and concerns, however, I found him charming. His sympathy towards the former family governess and his daughter Isabella over their marriages brought to mind my own father’s tradition of sending sympathy cards instead of wedding cards to newly married couples.

Miscellaneous: I have a copy of the movie Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow already to watch now that I have finished the novel. I am tempted to run out in this glorious rain to find a copy of Clueless so that I can watch that too. Although I have seen both movies before, it has been a number of years and my memory of them is faltering. I admit that as I read Emma, Alicia Silverstone and Gwyneth Paltrow’s faces popped up in my mind repeatedly.

My lovable dog is doing better. He has regained his full energy even though all his wounds have yet to heal. Thanks to all who expressed their concerns and good wishes!


  1. Both movies are quite fun! Hope you enjoy them as much as you did the novel.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the book :0) I, too, am a big fan of Jane Austen although I have not read "Emma" yet. Have fun watching the movies and I am glad your dog is feeling better!

  3. "Emma" was also the most recent Austen I read (a couple of summers ago) and the last of her novels I had left to read. I loved it for the precision and snarkiness of Austen's prose, and her (like Knightley's, but less earnest) affectionate disapproval of her characters' flaws. Now I am eager to start over with a novel I haven't read in 13 or 14 years - "Sense and Sensibility."

  4. I haven't read this, but you made it sound pretty interesting. Unfortunately, I'm staying clear of classics for a while, but if and when the urge strikes again I now have a possibility. Thanks. :)

  5. Jenclair - My husband and I just finished watching the movie Emma. I saw it when it first came out, but my memory of it was very vague. It was quite funny this time around--I was actually surprised at how close to the book it was (although clearly there were differences as well). :-)

    Kim - Thanks! I hope you will enjoy Emma as much as I did when you do read it.

    Pour of Tor - I plan not to wait too long to read my next Jane Austen novel. I adore her writing style. I definitely see myself reading her novels again and again. I have yet to read Sense and Sensibility, but I hope to. My husband really liked it and hopes to read more by Jane Austen one of these days.

    Joy - I understand. :-) Have you read Jane Austen before? I'm still partial to Pride and Prejudice, but I really did enjoy Emma.

  6. Emma was on my classics list, but I find Austen so slow to read, that I traded it for A Wrinkle in Time and Frankenstein instead. I will get around to her eventually:)
    I see you have Pope Joan on your TBR list. I loved Pope Joan, I hope you get to it.

  7. I took an Austen class one summer and we read all of her novels. Right before Emma, we read Mansfield Park, which was so dreary. Fanny was just too good and she didn't change at all during the novel. The prof tried to argue that the way in which she looked at the scenery at the beginning and end of the novel indicated growth, but no one was buying it. So the next novel was Emma, which is full of energy and light and a real live person for a heroine, not just some waxwork. I think I would love Emma (the novel) anyway, but I'll always be grateful to Austen for writing it as if to make up for the doldrums of Mansfield Park.

  8. This one's been on my TBR list for a while. I tried and just couldn't get through Pride and Prejudice, so I've hesitated on this one, but one of these days . . . .

  9. Yep, Emma can be a bit annoying. But she means well, doesn't she? Despite her weaknesses, or maybe because she has weaknesses, she is one of my favorite of Austen's characters.

  10. Who can resist Mr Knightley? I couldn't wait for Emma to open her eyes and see what a gem she had right in front of her.

  11. I feel like the last person on earth who has never read a work by Jane Austen. After reading your review, I'm thinking about bumping either Emma or Pride & Prejudice up my TBR towers.

    BTW - thanks for your great comments on my blog!! I've been enjoying your posts as well :)

  12. Raidergirl3 - I find reading Jane Austen slow in the beginning, but once I get going, her books seem to flow well. At least the two I've read. I can't speak for the others.

    I have heard great things about Pope Joan. I hope I am able to make time for it this year! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-)

    Bybee - That would be quite interesting--taking a class that focuses on Austen. Sometimes I wish I had majored in literature in college--or at least had more time to take those types of classes. Maybe someday, I'll go back to school for the fun of it. :-) I'll be sure and prepare myself for Mansfield Park when I get to it--read something light and funny afterwards!

    SuziOregon - If you do get to it, I hope you enjoy Emma as much as I did.

    Nyssaneala - I am still partial to Elizabeth, whose flaws perhaps I can more relate to. :-) Emma does have a good heart, though, and like you said, means well.

    Kookiejar - Yes, I was mentally trying to nudge her toward him as I read. They make a good couple.

    Amelia - I hope you will give Jane Austen a try and will like them as much as I do.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and stopping in. I do enjoy visiting your blog.

  13. I love the movie version of Emma with Paltrow. She's so crazy but a wonderful actress.

  14. This book sounds really good!! Awesome review!!!

  15. If memory serves the first time that I read Emma was sometime after I had seen the Paltrow movie. It is a film that I deeply love. Jeremy Northam is a perfect Mr. Knightley. Clueless is fantastic as well. Such a fun retelling of this classic work.

  16. I'm glad to hear your puppy is better!

    After inexplicably loathing Pride & Prejudice for ages, I'm glad I finally relented and read Jane Austen's books. I've enjoyed every one I've read (and you know, I can't remember if I've read Emma or just seen the movies! lol)

  17. I like the structure that you use for this type of entry. Very easy to pick up the bits of the review that are of immediate interest to me.

    I've never much cared for Emma but I do reread Mansfield Park every two or three years. (I think it's an acquired taste. I didn't like MP the first time I read it at all.) If you need something short and lively by Austen, then Lady Susan is wonderful.

  18. Aka-Nik - It's a very good movie, isn't it? I like Gwyneth Paltrow too.

    Heather - Thanks so much!

    Carl V. - I thought Jeremy Northam did an excellent job as Mr. Knightley. I really enjoy the movie Clueless. I haven't yet gotten my hands on a copy, but I hope to this weekend so I can watch it while the book is fresh in my mind. It's been a while since I last saw it.

    Carrie K - My memory of Pride and Prejudice after the first time I read it was not glowing, but I did enjoy it much more on the second reading and now consider it one of my favorite books. I am lookin forward to reading more of Jane Austen's work.

    Jill - Thank you. :-) I borrowed the format from a friend several months ago and have adapted it to fit my needs. It works well for me.

    I hope to get to Mansfield Park one of these days. I will definitely give Lady Susan a try as well. Thanks for the recommendation!

  19. Emma was the only book I ever cheated on. It was in Junior High and I couldn't get through it despite being a prolific reader so I bought the Cliff Notes. I felt terribly guilty. It almost put me off Austen forever but then I read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility which I love. I've never had the nerve to go back to Emma as an adult.

  20. Sarala - The book I cheated on was Sister Carrie. I couldn't get into that one no matter how hard I tried. Someday I'll give it another go.

  21. I love Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite by Emma is probably my second favorite.

  22. She's fast becoming one of my favorites, Christina. I love Jane Austen's writing.


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