Emma by Jane Austen Review 4/5

emma by jane austenOverall Impression: Insightful and funny, with traditional Jane Austen flair, this makes the perfect summer read.

I read this book as a part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge, the Rory Gilmore Challenge, and also because of my personal goal to try and read more classics this year. This is the second Jane Austen book I have read, the first being Pride and Prejudice, but I enjoyed this one much more! Emma was quite a different experience because I had no prior knowledge of the plot, and I think this led to a much more rewarding read.


Emma Woodhouse, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition’ thinks a little too highly of herself, and entertains herself by meddling in the affairs of others. The results are not always to her liking.

The blurb doesn’t give you much of a taster of the book, so here’s my expanded version, as always, no spoilers. 🙂
Emma Woodhouse lives with her eccentric/hypochondriac father and her governess Miss Taylor. Life is good. She lives in the beautiful estate Hartfield, has everything she wants, and has no desire to marry. However, when her closest friend and steady companion Miss Taylor is wed to Mr Weston and moves out, Emma finds herself with a lot of solitary leisure time. Holding herself in high esteem from being the one who first introduced Miss Taylor and Mr Weston, she decides to take up matchmaking, much to the dismay of her friend Mr Knightly. She finds her perfect mission in Harriet Smith, a beautiful but naive young girl who is easily led. She quickly befriends her and sways her in the direction of Mr Elton, a well mannered man she believes is in need of a spouse. But Emma’s scheming doesn’t go to plan, and soon she finds herself in a flurry of unforeseen events, tumbling in a downwards spiral of confusion and mayhem.

I am the first to admit that I am not the best at reviewing/analyzing classics and picking out the most important points (speaking of which thoughtsonmybookshelf did a great review of Persuasion by Jane Austen you should check out, and Jillian also did a great post about her thoughts on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë and I really enjoyed reading both of these!) but bearing that in mind, on with the review!

As with Pride and Prejudice (you can check out my review here.) this book at first glance appears to be a love story; but it is so much more than that.  At the root of Emma, are various discussions, ponderings, and analysis into 19th century behavior which is still just as relevant today. To me personally, I perceived this novel to be mostly about misunderstandings. The confusion of how one conversation can be interpreted two, or even three different ways and cause a variety of knock on effects. Jane Austen is so accurate in her perception of human nature it makes me envious, and the way in which she subtly integrates it into her books is even more inspiring. She comments on how we see what we want to see, and as soon as we get one idea into our head, we often become consumed by it, believing it must be true even if it goes against all common sense or overlooks something right under our nose.
These are a couple of quotes that jumped out at me, I just had to make note of because they were so insightful:

‘She looked back as well as she could; but it was all confusion. She had taken up the idea, she supposed and made everything bend to it.’

‘Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.’

Other noticeable themes in this book were arrogance and meddling. Emma often makes it her business to meddle in others affairs and she is not the only character guilty of this. However even though she usually has a friends best interests at heart, her arrogance and self worth often gets in the way. It was very interesting to see the progression of this as it continued throughout the book.
However, in terms of the plot I was somewhat less impressed, this is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did! But I often felt I was three steps ahead of what was going to happen, and therefore this made the novel feel increasing slow at points, and this was emphasized even more by the fact that Jane Austen’s novels tend to have slow pacing anyway. Right at the end of the books she revealed something as if it was going to be a shock, when I had guessed it within the first third of the novel. Although I don’t think it was ever Austen’s aim to hide the outcome of the plot, I did feel it dampened my enjoyment of it slightly.

I loved all of the characters in Emma, I either loved them, or I loved to hate them! Something about Jane Austen’s writing just makes them leap off the page. I’m not even entirely sure how she does it, but before I realize it’s happened I’ve become utterly invested in the characters. I would never get on with the character Emma if she were real, and yet, the author makes her so compelling to read about. Harriet Smith, Mr Elton, Mr Knightly, Isabella and Frank Churchill, all of them are so well developed; interesting and quirky. One character in particular (avoiding spoilers) even made me get what I like to call fluffy bunny feelings *sigh* just….I’m gone, I’m a goner, I’ve never been a Mr Darcy fan, in all honesty I don’t really see the appeal, but this guy? Yes! *Swoon*

I’m in two minds about Jane Austen’s writing style. At times I really love it, she can have such an elegant way of stating things, like the quotes I used above. Her writing also (as I said before) creates such fantastic characters. And yet…..at some points when the story seems to be going very slowly it begins to grate on me. She also seemed to do a lot of telling rather than showing. But this may just be a reflection of the period it was written in, I’m not sure. Maybe someone with more knowledge of the classics could give me some insight?
This book was very close to getting a five out of five from me, but something about Austen’s work (that I’ve read so far) just doesn’t quite seem to satisfy me. I found the same with Pride and Prejudice as I did with Emma. Maybe it’s just the fantasy loving part of me, but while reading I often wished a swarm of vampires or a dragon would appear at one of their social gatherings and scare them all silly. It would be so interesting to see how they would react. Would Mr Darcy stay calm? Or would he run away screaming like a girl? Would Emma Woodhouse be clever enough to find an escape route? The randomness that is my brain people! 🙂 Although, I suppose not that random. I imagine that train of thought is how books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies were created. Not that I’ve read any of them, but you should check out Summer’s great review here!

I would recommend this book to females or males who are interested in social commentary on the way we perceive events and people around us, and how they can be misinterpreted. I would suggest it for ages 16 and up, not because of anything to do with it’s content but just because I think people of this age will be more appreciative of the messages within the story.

To anyone who has read Emma, please feel free to comment on other themes, background information on the novel, or any interesting thoughts you have about it in the comments section. I would love to find out more about this novel, and I’m sure there are some important details I managed to miss! 🙂

Writing Style: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 4/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes, and I would recommend it over Pride and Prejudice!

Overall: 4/5

Image Source: http://greenskyoutside.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/emma-book-cover.jpg

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52 thoughts on “Emma by Jane Austen Review 4/5

  1. Good review! I haven’t actually read any Jane Austen. When I’m looking for classics to read, I usually go to other genres instead of romance, like fantasy or science fiction. It sounds like you were looking for other genres while reading it, as well, lol.

    Would you consider Austen an author you enjoy, based on the two books? Would you read her work again?

    This isn’t exactly about the book, but I do know the general story of Emma because it was adapted into the 1995 movie Clueless, which I like a lot.

    • Thank you, I find it quite difficult to review classics, so I’m glad you liked it! 🙂 Yeah I understand that as you can see above hehe. Plus Jane Austen is sterotyped as a woman’s writer so I can see why it wouldn’t be your first choice of book to pick up.

      Ahh yes several people have mentioned Clueless to me actually, a lot of people say it’s great so it’s suprizing that I’ve never come across it. It’s a film I need to investigate I think!

      Hmmm…based on Pride & Prejudice I would have said Austen was an author I could appriciate; her way of working and her use of words. But after reading Emma I now consider her an author I enjoy for more than just her literary value. I wouldn’t really call her a favourite author of mine though, as I said above something about her work just doesn’t quite reach that ‘wow’ point for me, probably because of my preference for fantasy. But I will continue to read some of her other works.
      As for re-reading, I’m not sure, when I read her books I feel like I am only taking in a fraction of the meanings and stories implied so it would be interesting to see what I would get out of it the second time. However I don’t think I would re-read it anytime soon, because I like it, but I didn’t love, love it.

    • Oooh an annotated copy! I bet that will be great, you’ll probably get much more insight into the book than I did (mine was the bog standard kind). I will be very interested to hear your thoughts on it in the future.
      Thanks! 🙂

  2. Interesting write-up.I love Jane Austen writings.Emma was no doubt an engaging novel,presently i am reading hers “Sense & Sensibility” its also good( I’ll recommend you to read it too!) 🙂

    • I’m glad you found it interesting. 🙂 I agree! Emma is definitely my favourite of the two I’ve read so far.
      Oh cool, I hope you continue to enjoy it! I have Sense and Sensibility on by bookshelf waiting to be read, so I will take you up on that suggestion.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for subscribing! I’m always up for bookish discussions so I hope to hear more from you soon. 🙂

  3. Sounds girly and rubbish. The book that is, not your review.

    Actually, I just wanted to use that above joke.

    I really can’t imagine reading a Jane Austen book, I think all my mates would laugh at me. Those two lines you quoted above seem quite strangely written, I am not sure if I could handle an entire book of it.

    Some 19th century writing can be amusing; Sherlock Holmes for instance. The first time I came across “Watson ejaculated”, I wondered what the hell I was reading. The word is used to describe someone shouting…!

    • Haha, anything for comedic effect.

      No, I really can’t imagine you reading Jane Austen either! The two just don’t seem mutually exclusive. Although if you ever do, you should take a picture and use it for your profile. Now that would create good comedic effect. 🙂

      Yeah, the whole book is written like that, so I would avoid Austen if it’s not your sort of thing. I’ve got a lot of Sherlock Holmes on my to be read pile too, so I have all that amusing writing to look forward to!

  4. This i a brilliant review, it makes me want to read it. I totally get the thing about the language she uses though, judging by Pride and Prejudice.

    It sounds like it’ll be a good read, it definitely seems a little different from Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. I have Sense and Sensibility awaiting me on the bookshelf and you’ve just made me look forward to it even more haha!

    • Thanks Summer! I’m glad you liked it, I always find it difficult how to approch reviewing classics so I’m glad it piqued your interest! 🙂

      Yeah, I was quite suprized by how different it was to Pride & Predujice, that was the first thing that struck me. In terms of the fact that Emma Woodhouse already has financial stability and doesn’t need to marry, whereas Elizabeth Bennet and several character I believe from Sense & Sensibility are all struggling with finance and the need to marry. It was a very interesting switch up! I have Sense & Sensibility to read too, we will have to compare after we’ve both read it! 🙂

      • Haha, totally. I imagine we’ll both be like ‘oh god, the language!’ 😛 You approached it brilliantly, and you really have made it sound more interesting than Pride and Prejudice. I’m glad she mixed it up a bit!

      • Haha, I’m almost certain that’ll be exactly how it goes! 🙂 I did actually read the start of S & S a while back, but I didn’t get very far because I was much younger at the time and I had to give it back to the library. I’m looking forward to being able to say I’ve completed it!
        Awwwh shucks! *blushes* Thanks again! 🙂

  5. Ooh, I must find and dust off my Jane Austen books. Haven’t read any since college, the last being Sense and Sensibility I think. If Emma is a perfect summer read, then I’ll start with that one, thanks Becky. And I much prefer your blurb. Great review.

    • Ooh you should! 🙂 Ahh, I own Sense and Sensibility but I haven’t read it yet, did you enjoy it?
      No problem! Awwh thank you, 🙂 I did think in this case the official blurb was very vague!

      • I enjoyed it but not as much as some of her others. Maybe you could look into a career writing blurbs for authors? 🙂 Seriously though, there must be lots of indie authors looking for that service.

  6. Interesting that you preferred this to Pride &Prejudice(that’s something we have in common, those are the only two JA books I’ve read as well!). I didn’t really enjoy Emma as much as P &P. I found her very annoying and the only thing I liked about the novel was Mr. Knightley-yum!!! 🙂

    Okay, I’m leaving now, before I degrade your excellent, erudite book review with my silly, girly comments about how dishy Knightley is…hmmm.

    • Ohh really? That is very interesting! Would you ever consider reading any other Austen books? I know your not the biggest fan..

      I agree with you actually in terms of Emma Woodhouse, I didn’t find her a particularly likable character, and as I said if I met her in real life I don’t think we would get on! Haha. But then I didn’t find Elizabeth Bennet a very likeable character either. Normally that would probably make me dislike a book, but for some reason with Austen that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think maybe it’s because although she portrays these characters, she doesn’t necessarily show their traits as desirable and in fact often mocks their ways.

      Ohhh yes! I loved Mr Knightly, he’s my new fictional crush I think! Nahh you couldn’t ruin it, there’s wrong with crushing over a good ol’ fictional character. Erudite, wow thanks! 🙂 (I had to look up what that meant LoL, which maybe somewhat ironic.)

      • You right, I’m not her biggest fan. I much more prefer her contemporary Elizabeth Gaskell(who I feel is grossly underrated).
        I know Austen fans would want my head on a plate for saying this but I just feel all her storylines are more or less the same: revolving around marriage and whether the right girl gets the right guy. So I’m not sure whether I would read her other works to be honest.
        Ha ha, ‘erudite’ is one of my favourite words! LOL. 😉

      • Ahh yes, I haven’t forgotten about your recommendation to read her, it still there in the back of my head! 🙂
        Ha, yeah I’m sure they would! Actually, I agree with you there as well, I was thinking about that while I was reading it. You tend to have one good guy, one bad guy who someone always falls for. A naive girl, and vise versa. It’s ok with a large break inbetween but I couldn’t never read non stop Austen!

  7. I noticed you’ve got David Copperfield on your TBR list, I think you should dive into some Dickens next, I’d love to see what you make of it.

    I think it’s fascinating to fall in love with a fictional character. I always find myself spellbound and entranced by Princess Maria from War and Peace.

    • Yes I do indeedy. 🙂 I think subconciously I’ve been avoiding the large Dickens pile, it looks quite intimidating! But hopefully once I read one, it will make me want to read lots of the others. I will definitely let you know what I think of it!

      Yeah, it is isn’t it? That’s interesting, I want to read War and Peace at some point as well, but again, it’s a book that looks quite intimidating because it’s so big! 🙂

      • I started with A Tale of Two Cities and I’ve been hooked ever since! W&P doesn’t kick into gear until about 300 pages in, IMO 🙂

        For a really intimidating read, have you tried The Count of Monte Cristo? There’s a graphic on wikipedia explaining the characters (http://tinyurl.com/6c5edkl)

      • Cool, I think I will do the same then. I’ve been wondering where I should start, so thanks for giving me some direction! 🙂

        Yikes! After 300 pages!?! Blimey, No wonder it’s such a long book.

        I’ve heard vaguely of The Count of Monte Cristo but I have no idea what it’s about or how long it is. I checked out the diagram. WHOA! It looks so complicated!! Dickens is suddenly looking a whole lot better! Teehee. 🙂

  8. Oh, I think I know the guy in question who gave the fluttery feelings 🙂 (and if I’m right, he’s more than worthy of all those feelings). And Emma is one of my favorite classics. I do have to say in regards to the things that are narrated as surprising that seem obvious- I felt like those were meant to show how out of touch Emma is and how inclined she is to see things only the way she wants to see them. It’s something that she slowly grows out of, but it takes a lot of time because for her that’s her biggest fault- she’s always convinced that she knows a situation exactly when it’s rather obvious to everyone else that there are other forces at play.

    This was an awesome review. If I wasn’t reading five different books, I’d probably be re-reading this one…

    • Hahaa, I’m glad you approve of my latest literary crush, he is rather dreamy!
      Ahh, that’s a very interesting interpretation. You could well be right there, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I did notice her progression throughout the book, but I didn’t (consciously anyway) link it to the obvious plot line. Thanks for the tip. 🙂
      It’s interesting that it’s one of your favourite classics, it’s pretty high up on my scale at the moment too (but having said that I haven’t actually read all that many classics yet!)

      Aw thank you! 🙂 Well in that case I hope you enjoy the five books you ARE currently reading. I know the feeling, I have the urge to re-read Wuthering Heights at the moment but I have to shift some of my tbr pile!

  9. Thanks for the shout-out! I’m glad you liked my Persuasion post 🙂 and I would argue that you are very good at picking out the themes / important points of classics, or this one at least! I studied Emma in university and loved it – I find it so weird that it’s a ‘least favourite’ for a lot of Austen fans, I guess because Emma is not as much the perfect heroine that Anne Elliot or Elizabeth Bennet are made out to be – but I think that makes her more likeable, not less! Great post!

    • No problem, I thought it was a really great post!
      Awwh thank you, that means a lot 🙂 I think I am starting to get better, it’s amazing how much I’ve learnt just from being present in the blogosphere.
      Oooh that sounds great, I would love to study Emma, I think there is a lot you could unpick 🙂

      Is it? I didn’t know that, how strange! I don’t feel like I can comment on it properly quite yet, only having read two of her novels, but I wasn’t THAT bothered by Pride & Prejudice at all. I agree that Emma is not as perfect, but I loved that fact and I think it gave her a lot more layers as a character. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting! It’s always great to hear from you 🙂

  10. Emma is a fave. I rewatched the Gwenyth Paltrow version of it with my folks and they thought it fun as well. It’s on my AP-to-teach novel list. It’s too bad so many guys think JA is a girl author; sigh, I wish they would see that she is an author. Such a fine writer.
    Blue Skies,
    CricketMuse

    • I haven’t seen the film, but I really want to after reading the book. It will be very interesting to see how the two compare!
      Cool, I haven’t read many classics so far but Emma is definitely up there in my estimations, I really enjoyed it. 🙂

      I agree! It’s such a shame. I think Emma could be enjoyed by both males and females but as soon as they see it is a Jane Austen book they will likely overlook it.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  11. Emma is my favourite Austen novel.
    Thank you for sharing your review for the Eclectic Readers Challenge

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  12. Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on my post on “books not yet encouraged to read” 😉 Jane Austen is also one of my favourite British authors and I’m sure to dive in Emma shortly after finishing Persuasion. I think you should be very proud of her 😀
    I’m looking for reading more of your posts!!

    • That’s alright, no problem, I enjoyed peeking around and commenting on your posts. 🙂
      Ohh I’m glad to hear it, I hope you love it. I will keep an eye out for your thoughts on it. It’s my favourite Jane Austen novel to date, but then, I have only read two so maybe I will have some more great suprizes ahead of me!

      Thanks! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the stuff I post. 🙂

  13. Hi there! I was so happy that you visited my blog that I decided to see what yours was about. You can imagine my delight when I found that it’s ALL about books! 😀 This review caught my eye, because I just finished reading Emma. Like you, I really enjoyed the story. (And totally agree with you about Mr. Knightly. He’s awesome! *sigh!*) And I also agree with you in that, while I really enjoy Austen’s books, I’m far more likely to read The Chronicles of Narnia or 100 Cupboards. 🙂

    • Awwh it’s no problem. 🙂 I’m always surfing the web trying to find fellow book bloggers because I love everything books! Haha yepp, pretty much all about books, with the occasional movie review or personal post slotted in. 🙂
      Ohh really? That’s great, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Mr Knightly is nom all over, I didn’t really take to Frank Churchhill at all, although I’m not sure if you’re supposed to. 😛

      Haha, me too, I’m glad you agree! Thanks for popping over and commenting. 😀

  14. I just finished reading “Emma” and I agree with you. You said,”Right at the end of the books she revealed something as if it was going to be a shock, when I had guessed it within the first third of the novel.” It was not a shock to me either….I guessed this near the beginning of the book too.;)
    I recommend this book….loved it.

    • Hi Peggy. 🙂

      Ohh that’s great I’m glad you enjoyed it! Ha ha yeah, there is one cool thing about working out the plot twists though, it makes you feel really brainy, lol!

      I’m glad you enjoyed and I would definitely recommend this book too.

    • That’s great! I hope you enjoy it. I always think it’s really cool when a guy goes against the ‘Jane Austen is for girls’ assumption because there’s really more to it than that. 🙂

  15. Pingback: Jane Austen’s Emma (Revisited Challenge) | Jorie's Reads by Starry Night Elf

  16. I sometimes feel in two minds about Austen’s style myself – it is so crisp and perfectly formed that I sometimes want to shake a little passionate excess out of her. Is it possible to be too composed? Austen is undoubtedly a master, however, and I think Emma is quite possibly her best. Glad you enjoyed it.

    My review: Emma by Jane Austen

    • I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes I do find myself getting frustrated with her style wishing she would attach more passion and emotion, it all feels very reserved even when something big or life-changing is happening, but she is queen of with and satire. 🙂

      Thank you!

  17. Great review! I preferred this to Pride and Prejudice too, because it was after this book that I really got Austen’s humour. I also agree- I’m much more of a Mr Knightley fan over a Mr Darcy fan. I also love the characters and I think one of my favourite things about this book has got to be Emma’s growth as a character.

    • Thank you. 🙂 I would have to agree with that. Reading P&P first, I think I did probably miss out on a lot of her humour because I wan’t expecting it, I do wonder if I would enjoy it more on a reread but on the whole, I just liked the message of the story of Emma more. 🙂 Agreed, Emma’s growth is awesome!

  18. Pingback: The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge | Magic From Madness

  19. I’ve read four of Jane’s books and I suppose I can assure you that making surprises about the stories is not her most important concerns. I mean, it’s about real life and, in life, we mostly can figure out what is going to happen. Emma is such an amazing novel and I totally agree with you about Jane’s unbelievable wisdom in creating so deep personalities…. Forgive me if my comentary has any orthographic error, I’m Brazilian so it’s not my natural writing style.

    • Hi Julianna. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog! I agree that Jane Austen is not a plot twist kind of author, it’s just not her style – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not every story needs twists. However, I think because of my reading preferences is lacked a little bit for me personally because I’m used to reading a lot of fantasy and young adult, that’s not the book’s fault though!
      I’m glad to hear you felt this novel was amazing too, I can only hope I like her other works as much as this one!
      Your writing is brilliant, it reads very well. 🙂

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