Friday, July 15, 2011

Emma, Jane Austen

Title:  Emma
Author:  Jane Austen
Pages:  324
Genre:  Fiction, Classics
Source:  My bookshelf
What you'll love:  Being immersed in Austen's 19th century world.
What will bug you:  Mrs. Elton.

2011TBRThis classic has been on my shelf for quite some time.  This is my fourth Austen novel, and I think it's one of my favorites.  There's something lovable about the charming, real, and flawed character, Emma.  I chose this book as an "alternate" on my list for the TBR Challenge hosted at Roof Beam Reader.  I was inspired to read it for "Jane in June" hosted by Book Rat.  Unfortunately, June proved to be a busy one and my calendar says July.  Oh well - the intent was there!  

The basic storyline of Emma is fairly straightforward.  Emma thinks very highly of herself, not necessarily out of arrogance, but because in her sheltered world, she has never know anything else.  She tries her hand at finding a match for her friend, Harriet, with results that are far from fruitful.  Harriet is of unknown parentage, which somewhat limits the "kind" of man she will be likely to marry - a true reflection of the time period.  Emma insists on building Harriet up to enter courtship with gentlemen of high standing, and her plans fall through consistently.  She has given Harriet enough false hopes that Harriet finds herself in love with Mr. Knightly, the brother of Emma's brother-in-law, and a true gentleman.  It is only when Harriet reveals her feelings to Emma that Emma realizes that she, herself, is in love with Mr. Knightly.  As is the rule with Jane Austen, there are other characters who mix with the main characters - they interact socially, and inevitably misunderstandings occur.  But don't worry, everything works out in the end.

I have openly admitted to my crush on Mr. Darcy, and to that I need to add an additional crush - Mr. Knightly.  Whereas Mr. Darcy is mysterious and distant, Mr. Knightly is kind and warm.  He's a fantastic love interest because he shows himself, throughout the novel, as a friend and confidant to Emma.  The reader knows his true heart even before he declares his love for Emma.  

Compared to the other Austen novels I've read, I find the characters in Emma to be very accessible and real.  Emma is certainly a flawed individual.  She is selfish, full of herself, and stubborn - however, you can't help but like her.  Although she certainly acts far more "proper" than you see in our 21st century interactions, there's a playfulness, and a down-to-earth quality to her that I sometimes miss when reading books written in Austen's time.  I notice this with her interactions with Frank Churchill as well - although the other characters find their banter inappropriate, I find it refreshing.  

I love Mr. Woodhouse.  My Grandmother is actually like this.  No, really.  She is.  We often have conversations about getting a cough if the air conditioner is blowing directly on you, or how my winter cold certainly has nothing to do with working with germy children and everything to do with the time I ran from the car to her door without a coat.  If I have somewhere to go that's further than a 20 minute drive, she's worried, especially if it's nighttime.  One time she actually told me that wrapping a silk scarf around my neck while I sleep will cure my sore throat.  I absolutely love it (and her)!!!  Mr. Woodhouse is the same way.  He's a worrier, and he obviously does not really have a clear idea of what are reasonable medical concerns.  He's endearing.  

Mrs. Elton reminds me of the mother of one of my friends.  Everything she has/does/thinks is obviously superior to everyone else.  She has this attitude that "I am me, and you are merely you".  Perhaps, because I've dealt with a real-life Mrs. Elton, I found the fictional one very hard to take.  She drove me absolutely nuts.  

Overall, this was a great book!  I love reading Austen because she makes me feel a part of her time period like few other authors do.  I'm sorry I kept it on the shelf so long!!

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