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Jane Austen – Emma

January 26, 2009

10. Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Read By: Victoria Morgan
Length: 15hr 40min (512 pages)

Genre: Classic; Romance

Started: 02 January 2009
Finished: 24 January 2009

Obnoxious people,
sharp satirical humor:
untempered by warmth

Summary: Emma Woodhouse is a relatively wealthy young woman with very little to occupy her, who likes nothing more than being the queen bee of her social circle. Although she herself has no interest in marrying, she’s an inveterate matchmaker when it comes to her friends and acquaintences. Unfortunately, her judgment of other people’s thoughts and feelings is not as sound as she thinks it is, and she finds that her meddling causes more problems for her friends – and herself – than it solves.

Review: I’m going to make three rather embarassing revelations. First, this is my first time reading Emma, and only the third Austen I’ve read. Second, I love pretty much every film adaptation of Austen’s books, even those I haven’t read. And third… I spent almost the entirety of listening to Emma trying to figure out how well it matched the corresponding scenes from the movie Clueless. *shame!*

Austen said about Emma that she was going to create “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” And, at least in my case, she was pretty much right. I mean, I wanted Emma to be happy, and I realize that she’s at heart a good person, but the constant snobbery (even towards the end, after she’s mostly reformed) really got on my nerves. Perhaps this effect was intensified since I didn’t find any of the other characters particularly likeable, either. Well-drawn, comic, and sharply satirical, yes, but not likeable. Morgan’s choice of voices for the characters, though apt, didn’t help either, especially in the middle of yet another of Miss Bates’s interminable and screechy rambles. I feel like I can’t criticize Austen without seeming like a philistine, but for me, Emma just lacked the sparkle of Pride and Prejudice, and it felt like there wasn’t enough warmth to soften the sharp edge of the satirical humor. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Good writing, of course, and reliably funny, but it never made me anxious to go back and listen to more.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Trish’s Reading Nook, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, Adventures in Reading
Did I miss your review? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 6:27 pm

    great review, I liked this one. I liked Knightly. And lol….as I read it, I thought ‘this is the movie Clueless’ so I googled Clueless and found it was based on Emma….I never knew that!

    I agree, this isnt as good as P&P, but then again, what is?

  2. January 26, 2009 7:06 pm

    I’m sorry you didn’t like this one that much…it’s my second-favorite Austen, next to P&P. I’ve read it about 10 times, though, so maybe Emma grows on you? I also really like Jane Fairfax; I think she’s an excellent foil for Emma. I’ve never tried listening to an audiobook version. I’m sure Miss Bates would be even more annoying that way. :)

  3. January 27, 2009 10:07 am

    bookworm – I don’t remember when I learned that Clueless was based on Emma, but I’d seen the movie many, many times before I got around to reading the book. Oops!

    Jessi – I didn’t dislike it, it just never really drew me in the way P&P did. I did really like Jane Fairfax by the end, but for most of the book she’s somewhat of a cipher – not much to like or dislike.

  4. January 27, 2009 11:14 am

    Fyrefly. I admit that while I was devoring Austen during high school, it actually took me years to get through Emma. I think I found the same thing you did… I didn’t care for the caracters. So I would put it down and walk away for long periods of time. On my Austen list this one is near the bottom.

  5. Bobbie Crawford-McCoy permalink
    January 27, 2009 5:54 pm

    Great review, thank you. :-)
    I think…I will skip this one. Love the movies, but I believe this particular book might irritate me. lol


  6. January 28, 2009 5:41 am

    You think that’s embarrassing? I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel lol. I tried reading Persuasion and just got impatient with it which is odd because I usually love classics :(

  7. January 28, 2009 7:36 pm

    LOL!! When I read this a few months ago I couldn’t help but continually compare it to Clueless as well. I’m sorry you didn’t like this one as well–what’s the third you’ve read?

  8. January 28, 2009 7:47 pm

    Katy – I can’t imagine putting this down and coming back to it later – I’d lose track of the various threads for sure!

    Bobbie – Well, I certainly don’t speak for everyone with regards to this (or any other) book, but if it’s not crying out at you to be read, you’re probably better off finding something that is.

    Ladytink – Heh, I’m the other way around… I tend to get really impatient with the classics, which is why I listen to them on audiobook.

    Trish – I read Sense & Sensibility about eight years ago, before I’d seen any of the Austen movies (except Clueless, heh), and I couldn’t stand it, mostly because I kept getting the characters confused and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I only half-count it as having read it, since it really deserves a re-read now that I am more used to the language and flow of the classics…. and now that I’ve seen the movie! ;)

  9. January 28, 2009 9:41 pm

    I watched the movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow before reading the book and I think I did the same sort of matching up and comparing you did!

  10. January 30, 2009 10:20 am

    This is one Austen I haven’t read yet. It’s on my shelf collecting dust, and I hope to brush it off and read it in the near future. (We’ll see.) I bet you’re right that it’s not as good as P&P, but hopefully it’s better than Mansfield Park. Didn’t like that one as much as I hoped I would.

  11. January 30, 2009 10:30 am

    Shana – I’ve seen the Gwyneth Paltrow version once, but I should totally watch it again now – thanks for the reminder!

    Anna – Well, Trish’s review is what inspired me to get off my butt and finally listen to it, so maybe mine’ll give you the nudge. :)

  12. trapunto permalink
    February 6, 2009 12:20 am

    I’d say if Pride and Prejudice has the sparkle of champagne, Emma has the meaty astringency of a good red wine. Sparkle isn’t what it’s going for. It’s been years since I read it, and I know which Austen novels people prefer is really subjective . . . but, aw shucks, when you say you didn’t find any of the characters likeable, are you including Mr. Knightly?

    I agree with what Jessi says about Jane Fairfax being a perfect foil; I also agree she’s a cipher for most of the book, but that made me all the more interested to find out what sort of a person she would turn out to be. I liked the subtle presentation of the way she was able to drive Emma (the competitive perfectionist) absolutely batty with jealously. So, I guess liking Jane is more about enjoying the humor of Emma’s response to Jane, than Jane herself.

    Emma was the first time I saw Gwyneth Paltrow. I hated her whining interpretation of the character so much, I thought she was just an annoying actress and didn’t watch anything else with her in it for a long time; later I was totally surprised to like her everywhere else I saw her.

  13. February 6, 2009 11:42 am

    trapunto – Mr. Knightly’s likeable enough, but he’s not around all that often for a lot of the book. Plus, I imagine that if I had someone in real life constantly lecturing me about proper behavior and how I wasn’t living up to it, I’d find that kind of insufferable.

  14. Karin van Oostrum permalink
    November 20, 2010 12:08 am

    I was wondering whether the reader of Emma, Victoria Morgan, reads the book with an American or with a British accent?



  15. September 11, 2011 10:00 am

    Reading this book at the moment and I love it (though not as good as Sense and Sensibility). You’re right about Emma’s snobbery by the way, it annoys me too…and I don’t see anything wrong with Mr.Martin! Harriet should have accepted! But I shouldn’t judge until I’ve finished it :) Check out my book blog, I’ve just recently started it and would love some feedback :)


  1. Emma by Jane Austen « The Armenian Odar Reads

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