EMMA by Jane Austen | Review

Last year I saw the movie Clueless, a comedy based on Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, for the first time. My immediate reaction was: I need to read this book.

Set in Austen’s Victorian England, this novel follows Emma as she attempts to set her new friend Harriet up with a suitable man to marry. Caught up in the strict social conventions of the time, Emma goes through all the hoops necessary in order to make the perfect match… or so she believes. As each potential match flickers out before her eyes, she comes to realize that perhaps she’s been looking the wrong place all along.

It’s clear that Emma has the potential to possess all of the qualities that Austenites admire Jane’s books for having: humor, wit, charm, and a swoon-worthy romance. Unfortunately, I feel as though this novel misses the mark on these characteristics. Had the story been written with a slightly more agreeable protagonist, romantic interest, or ending, it would have made for a much more pleasurable read.

I guess my main problem with this novel is that I just couldn’t get past Emma’s annoying, oblivious, uppity personality. I’m sure this is the point of her character—we’re probably not supposed to like her—but where’s the enjoyment in that? Annoying protagonists are one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when there isn’t much going on besides their inner thoughts. Emma does undergo some character development towards the end of the story and begins to acknowledge that perhaps social classes aren’t as important in marriages as she once believed; however, this slight change was not enough to justify putting the reader through hundreds of pages to get to that point. I know this is a personal preference and is therefore really subjective, but my inability to relate with Emma ended up being a huge reason why this novel didn’t really click with me.

Harriet, on the other hand, was a character I connected with quickly and easily; it’s a shame that she doesn’t play a greater role overall. I’ve also been the girl who looks to others for relationship advice, the girl who feels heartbroken and a bit manipulated by others as they play their own twisted games. I think we can all relate with Harriet in some sense or at the very least feel sympathy for her as she is lead astray by Emma time and time and time again. Poor Harriet!

Overall, I have very mixed feelings about Emma. While I understand the point Austen is trying to make (social classes shouldn’t matter in marriages, the social conventions of the time period were ridiculous, etc.), I couldn’t get past Emma’s irritating, know-it-all personality. There were certainly moments when I laughed and admired Austen’s wit and charm, but it’s safe to say that this definitely isn’t my favorite Austen novel.

What are your thoughts on Emma? Which Jane Austen novel is your favorite? Which one should I read next? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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11 thoughts on “EMMA by Jane Austen | Review

  1. I love emma 💜💜 ! Its her not being perfect which really made me like the book . I just felt that Austen always wrote about what prevailed in the society then, and I thought maybe there might have been girls like Emma, hence the story .! Its her learning process which made me a fan, her acceptance as a human of being wrong !

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  2. I have read Emma, but I’d like to read it again, cause I feel like it didn’t really sink in. I have to say, I got halfway through Clueless and decided that it irritated me too much to finish. But I do love the Pemberly Digital series Emma Approved. I think this story is interesting from an unlikable heroine perspective. Pride and Prejudice is good imo. I actually haven’t manged to read any of the others yet (I never finished Sense and Sensibility.) but I really want to try Persuasion.

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  3. For me, this is one of those reality-check reviews where you learn about a quirk that would really bug you, saving you from picking up a book that would ultimately disappoint. A bunch of my friends recommend Emma, but I dislike the combination of unlikeable narrators and uneventful plots. Even when there’s a redemption arc, I understand why other people would enjoy it but it’s not my cup of tea. Thanks for the warning, haha 🙂

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  4. I think it’s best to approach Emma with the expectation to learn how imperfect a heroine she is, and how many wrong turns it takes to finally show her the errors of her way. But I find her endearing and amusing, and I think Jane Austen amused herself very much when writing her character.
    I like Persuasion very much.

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  5. I think Emma is actually my favorite Austen. Unlike many readers I find her very relatable. She’s smart and successful, but only in her own little world where she understands everything. When she ventures outside her small sphere (her home, her close friends and family), she takes the same know it all attitude. But when she encounters unfamiliar situations and emotions, she doesn’t really know what to do with them. A lot of her journey is figuring out that she doesn’t always know what’s best for everyone. Sometimes she doesn’t even know what’s best for herself. She has to learn to take things as they come and figure them out as she goes along.

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  6. Emma is my favorite Austen novel, but I totally understand how people are put-off by her as a protagonist. I loved the fact that she was infuriating because it made it all the more entertaining for me, and unique. She is insufferable lol!

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  7. I feel like this book is about Catherine de Bourgh as a young woman. Now, no one likes Catherine de Bourgh. But I think Austen’s point is that if a smart young woman has nothing to do, that’s where she’s headed. 🙂

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  8. I enjoy Emma, though it’s not my favorite work by Austen–that would be Pride and Prejudice, though I enjoy Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion as well. Still, I will admit to absolutely loving the web series adaptation of the book. I definitely recommend watching Emma Approved.

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  9. Emma is my favorite Austen novel, and I never know how to explain it. It just has *something.* I actually think I relate to Emma more than any of the her other protagonists. Emma is impulsive, she’s nosy, she’s too much, too loud, too lost in her own imagination to see what’s right in front of her most of the time. The great thing about Austen, though, is that all of her leads are so different from each other! Sorry to hear you didn’t love Emma, but hopefully that means you’ll relate to another Austen protagonist instead!

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  10. This one has been on my shelf for a few years now but I keep putting it off haha. So far I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, both which I quite liked, so I do want to read Austen’s other works and besides Emma I have two other unread Austen novels on my shelves so I have the opportunity, I just keep putting it off because I’ve found I need to be in a certain mindspace to be able to get into her novels and enjoy them.

    Great review! 🙂

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  11. I personally loved Emma. But I can understand where you are coming from. Unfortunately we can’t expect to relate to every protagonist we come across, which is part of what makes reading so great!

    My favourite Austen novel is definitely Pride & Prejudice, as cliche of a choice as that is! I read it every summer 🙂

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