Emma Woodhouse has no need for a marriage. She is well-off, held in high esteem by the people of Highbury, and suitably occupied making matches for others. But when her plans to set up her new friend Harriet Smith with Mr Elton go awry, Emma is in for a rude awakening as to just how blind she is to the inclinations of others.
I could dislike every character in a book and yet thoroughly enjoy reading it if it is anything like a Jane Austen novel in terms of narration and style.
I’m biased, but there’s something about the author’s vision and attention to the most minuscule details when it comes to her characters that appeal to me a great deal. Here too, the writing is my favourite aspect of it.
In any given Austen title, you’ll find that the passages are longer than in a typical fiction novel these days, the sentences are complex, and what the author is trying to convey is not particularly written in a straightforward manner.
You can’t be a passive reader and fully understand the intricacies of a Jane Austen book. So, be prepared to go the extra mile if you’ve never read one of her works.
Talking of a society that is just as governed by class hierarchies and the fixation with “making a good match” between people, Emma is a timeless story. Try living as a single twenty-something today, and there’ll be at least two people around you trying to get you to tie the knot.
From the beginning, I knew that Emma would not be one of my favourite Austen protagonists. She is conceited and hypocritical and presumes to be a great judge of character (spoiler alert – she is not!).
While towards the end of the book, she becomes much more accepting of her faults, it doesn’t redeem her because the way she behaves all throughout is unacceptable.
Mr Knightley is the one character that I liked in the book. He has a steadfast presence in Emma’s life, is always trying to guide her, and has a solid worldview that could enrich anybody’s perspective.
Themes of prejudice and miscommunication are common in Jane Austen’s books, and they play an integral role in Emma too. This not only has to do with romantic relationships but also in the way several other characters interact with each other.
The primary plot is not layered enough to sustain a 500-page novel. But because the book gives us a glimpse into the ordinary lives of more than a handful of characters, chronicling significant events in their day-to-day, it works.
The audiobook narrated by Anna Bentinck made the experience even more engaging for me.
On the whole, I found the book worth the read simply because I love Jane Austen’s writing. If you had to pick just one of her titles, I’d any day recommend Pride & Prejudice over this one.