Emma is my third Jane Austen novel, having read Persuasion and Pride & Prejudice previously. Going into this I already knew the story because of Clueless and the adaptation featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Alan Cumming, but reading the book was a profoundly different experience to seeing it on screen. Mainly because there were a number of times in the book where I actually got a bit bored.
Now anyone who knows a bit about Jane Austen plot machinations will know the basic beats of this story. Heroine with a overcomable flaw falls in love with a man who was right under her nose (and has been loving her from afar) and it ends with a kiss. It’s one of those cosy predictable plots that gives me the warm fuzzies when watching an adaptation and when reading Pride & Prejudice many years ago.
By the end of it I have to say that I did enjoy this book and how Austen tied up all the plot points at the end. Villains are avoided, heroes are rewarded and everything is right with the world. My main issue was the narrowness of the scope. Where other of her novels involve trips around England or major pieces of intrigue, everything in Emma happens within a radius of a few miles and nothing big happens other than the reveal of a secret engagement.
I guess my issue was how most of the chapters were the conversations that happened as people called on one another and organised activities. You also have some incredibly long train of thought passages from Miss Bates that turns a page into a real wall of words. However, through all this the novel finds ways to really shine as long as we stick to the world inside of Emma’s head and the major characters surrounding her; namely Harriet and Mr Knightley.
The interplay between Emma and Mr Knightley are real highlights within this book, to the point where I could feel myself falling for him just a little bit (helps that he’s been portrayed by both Paul Rudd and Jonny Lee Miller in the past). Again, this is the strength of Austen – the creation of characters who you really want to see get together. It just would have helped if there was either a proper excursion or a bit less sitting around being social.
Still though, this was a good book and I feel more prepared for the Austentacious show. Next on the reading list is… I have no idea yet. I have an all day training event tomorrow, which means there is no chance I’m going to be in the mood to read. 44 more books to go!