Review of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen

The last of my Jane Austen re-reads, Emma has vied with Pride and Prejudice for my favourite Austen novel. I studied Emma (which must be why I left it until last!) so I knew it well, but I could never quite decide if I liked it the most… until now. The chemistry between Emma and her long-time friend Mr Knightley is not as appealing as the sparks which fly between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Therefore, Emma is my second favourite.

The novel follows Emma, the girl who has it all – wealth, looks, intelligence, adoring friends and family, no need to marry. She fancies herself a matchmaker but misinterprets others’ behaviour, leading to trouble… but she emerges a stronger character. This could be considered a coming of age novel. Society and class are the main preoccupations, however, with a focus on the inequality of women. Couples are happily matched in the almost-fairytale ending, of course, with the exception of Miss Bates, a middle-aged single lady whose kind personality does not make up for her lack of wealth. There are a number of other memorable characters, such as Emma’s querulous but indulgent father Mr Woodhouse, the gruesomely tasteless Mrs Elton and the talented but secretive Jane Fairfax.

Emma is a witty and sophisticated novel which is a pleasure to read. It was the last Austen book published in her lifetime (1816) and like the others was anonymous. I wonder how astonished she would be to know that her work is widely read, studied and filmed, her name one of the most famous in the canon of English literature.

The edition I read was published by Penguin Classics, 2015, with introduction and notes by Fiona Stafford.

Title page of first edition of Emma.


5 thoughts on “Review of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen”

    1. Thanks! Not a book to read quickly, it took me more than a week. Rewarding though I think 🙂

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