Jane Austen’s Emma was first published in 1815 and it still remains as one of the most popular classics of all time. The complex story tells of a young girl who overestimates her skills in matchmaking and causes misunderstandings all over her small community. Sounds eerily like modern high school or college. Emma captivates readers of all ages and it’s easy to find yourself engrossed in the realm of love and passion.
The book is named after its lovely and naive main character Emma who has some serious character flaws but who still finds her way to the readers’ hearts. Emma has a distorted image of her matchmaking skills and she tries to bring happiness to her friends (and even more so to herself) by helping them to find “true love”. Unfortunately Emma is probably the last person who should be trying to bring people together: she has no understanding of the way love works, which she proves by successfully convincing her friend Harriet to turn down a proposal from the man she loves. Instead Emma manipulates Harriet into believing that she has feelings for a local vicar. Of course the vicar in return loves Emma instead of Harriet. The book is entirely constructed of similar mishaps through which the reader can only laugh.
The book features a variety of characters: Mr. Knightley (Emma’s brother in-law) has an important role to play in the story and he’s one of the smartest and insightful people found in the novel. He creates a much needed contrast to Emma’s self-centricity as well as to her father’s naivete and the vicar’s ambition. The impact that the men in Emma’s life have on her views of love is interesting to say the least. The diversity of the characters ensures that the reader will have no room for boredom.
The lovely, traditional village of Highbury in Surrey is the perfect setting for discussing serious subjects like women’s station in life, pursuit of love and marriage, as well as financial security and its role in marriage. Jane Austen had a clearly controversial view of women’s role in society; it’s easy to find the hidden themes between the lines but that doesn’t exclude the pure enjoyment that comes from reading this exhilaratingly funny period drama.
I’d personally recommend this book for anyone looking for something witty and romantic to read over the holidays!