'I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.'
Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. [ synopsis from goodreads ]
For some strange and unfathomable reason, I have lived 22 years and I've not read all of Jane Austen's novels. Up until a few months ago, I'd only read two. But this summer, my fabulous book club aimed to change that. We're reading them all, woot.
Well, Emma is probably the story I knew most about without ever having read the book. I watched the Gwyneth Paltrow film version many, many years ago and I remember not a thing from it. But I've been watching Pemberley Digital's Emma Approved almost religiously. And, well, it's doing quite a nice job.
So where to begin. Emma has almost always gotten on my nerves. I hate the way she bends the lives of others to her whims and, at the beginning, I absolutely hated the way she tried shape Harriet's life. I mean, Harriet could've been happy from the get-go if Emma hadn't interfered. But she did and for the first hundred pages or so, she really got on my nerves.
But then a Mr. Elton happened and when that blew up, Emma began to change. And that's where I really began to love the novel and its heroine. By the end of the novel, you can see such a great change in Emma, she's almost unrecognizable. And because of that, I truly began to love and admire her. I think because you can see the changes that overcome her from the novel's beginning to its end, that's what makes this one of Austen's best works. And even though I did end up loving her dearly, Emma is still not my favorite heroine.
As for the rest of the characters, I think this novel seriously has some of Austen's absolute best men and some of her worst, um, is villains the right word? Well, anyway, some of her best awful people (pretend like that actually made sense). The Eltons were, um, wow SO AWFUL. Mrs. Elton had me constantly rolling my eyes with the fear that at some point they might remain stuck there. (Thankfully she began to take a lesser role and my eye rolling was greatly diminished.)
But oh boy, those men. Mr. Knightley is forever one of my favorites anyway (because wow, that speech at the end ... really that whole chapter *fans self*) but I also completely and totally love Frank Churchill. I mean, can that man woo or what?! Between Knightley and Churchill, I was basically happy until the end.
So while, for me, this novel had a bit of a rocky beginning, everything righted itself by the end and it's definitely become one of my absolute favorite novels. It's not my favorite Austen or anything like that (I can never see too far past Northanger and P&P) but I'm definitely glad I finally read it and enjoyed it as much as I did.
I just can't believe it took me 22 years to read it. I shall scold myself until the end of my days ... or just read it again in a few years. One of those.