Emma by Jane Austen
Back in the day when I used to be a good book blogger, I undertook a reading challenge to re-read the BBC Big Read reading list from 2003. It has not been going terribly well. hahaha. At last count, I'd read 21 of the 100. But let's change that shall we with a review of #40 on the list. This also enjoys the dubious award of being the book on my To Be Read pile for the longest.
Today's review is a classic in every sense of the word. It has been made into films numerous times, inspired further novels such as 'Emma of 83rd Street'. And it is still as fresh as possible reading it in 2023 as when I first read it. Of course it's Emma by Jane Austen
Although described by Jane Austen as a character 'whom no one but myself will much like', the irrepressible Emma Woodhouse is one of her most beloved heroines. Clever, rich and beautiful, she sees no need for marriage, but loves interfering in the romantic lives of others until her matchmaking plans unravel with consequences that she never expected. Jane Austen's novel of youthful exuberance and gradual self-knowledge is a brilliant, sparkling comic masterpiece.
I know I am all about the cake, but if Emma were a drink it could crisp and sparkle and fizz.
First of all let's talk about Emma Woodhouse. Emma is sass and independence itself, remarkable when we consider that Emma was published in 1815. She is a young woman in her early 20's who knows her own mind. She knows she will not get married, gently manoeuvres her hypochondriac father and sparkles in conversation with friends and in particular Mr Knightly. Reader, she is more than equal to him and his opinions.
Where she falls down is her match-making skills. Having successfully matched her former governess, she drives a paths through the love lives of her friends, particularly Harriet Smith proving that she is no Cilla Black in her Blind Date heyday.
The novel is a wonderful snapshot of life in a small country town in the early 19th Century. We see the daily bustle of visiting, preparation of the whirl of social engagements, dinners and picnics. Each friend, visits each other friend daily imparting questions about every one else, and sharing titbits of news. There is nothing better than a dance. Our characters concern themselves with running a household, ensuring guests are fed and watered and transported home in carriages and welcoming new arrivals to the village such as the dreadful Mrs Elton.
The writing is superb, the dialogue fizzes and Emma herself is a woman you want to spend time with. All in all, this deserves it's place on the BBC Big Read list and indeed any list of best books published.