Trigger Warning: This novel and it’s review contain descriptions of and mention the following topics: relationships.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Year Published: 1815
I remember getting my hands on a Barnes and Noble classic leatherbound copy of Emma and feeling like I has won the lottery. It was pink and gold, and opening up the pages, I knew I was in for some Austen magic.
In the novel, Emma Woodhouse is a beloved and precocious daughter of Mr. Woodhouse, who has always lived in comfort. She’s always in on the social on-goings of their small village, Highbury, and after “successfully” introducing her long-time governess, Ms. Taylor, to a widower named Mr. Weston and their subsequent nuptials, Emma considers herself a matchmaker. However, she is certain she herself will never marry.
Soon, Emma befriends a young girl of unknown parentage named Harriet. Taking her under her wing, Emma decides that Harriet would be a wonderful match for the village vicar, Mr. Elton, thinking he will look beyond Harriet’s social status. However, she must first discourage Harriet’s affection for Robert, a local farmer, whom Emma thinks is beneath Harriet, and even going so far as to denying his proposal of marriage.
Emma thinks that her matchmaking is going swimmingly, and brags to her long-time family friend, Mr. Knightly. He grows angry, knowing that they are a good match, and storms out. Despite his disapproval, Emma pushes forward with Harriet and Elton, only for Elton to declare his love for Emma. She obviously doesn’t share the same feelings, turns him down, and then must consul Harriet.
As Emma recalculates her matchmaking prowess, two new arrivals come to Highbury- Jane Fairfax (Miss Bates’s niece), and Frank Churchill (Mr. Weston’s son). Emma immediately warms to the handsome Frank, but isn’t too keen on Jane- although gossip circles that Mr. Knightly started to harbor romantic feelings for Jane, which Emma determinedly denies. As she loses interest in the dandy Frank, Emma thinks to match him with Harriet- but Harriet has already decided she has fallen for Mr. Knightly. Then, it strikes Emma- she is in love with Mr. Knightly too.
As Austen untangles the mess that Emma has created, the reader is swept up in the drama of all the romantic webs. As intended, Austen’s writing is such a fun focus on relationships, and the chaos that ensues without clear lines of communication. The entertainment in Austen’s clever banter keeps the reader turning pages, even centuries after it’s original publication.
What Makes it a Classic?
As with Austen’s other novels, the entertainment factor from Austen’s study of love, relationships, and small town society gossip in Emma has allotted it’s classic status. The novel is just as relateable today as it was over 200 years ago, and still inspires contemporary fiction. One of the most popular cult-classic 1990’s movies, Clueless, was based loosely on Emma. It’s a timeless novel that still draws in readers.
TL/DR: Emma by Jane Austen is a early 19th century classic novel about a young woman who is determined to play matchmaker, only to find herself without a match and many misadventures.
Read it? Yes! Take your time with the novel though, as some of the language is dated and confusing.
Recommend it? Yes!
Buy it? Yes! Golly, especially with all the beautiful reprints in gorgeous new covers. It’s a must have for your classic collection! (Don’t judge my copy- I haven’t started investing in the pretty ones yet, lol).
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen