Emma (1815) by Jane Austen

Emma

“If I loved you less I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it…” 

At last the germs have gone and I’m feeling slightly more like a proper human being again. Apologies for the long blog silence over the past week.

I’d been intending to read Lady Audley’s Secret for ages but as soon as I started to feel less sick I found myself gravitating towards Emma instead. I’m not sure why it was so appealing just then but I think there’s definitely something quite comforting about reading Jane Austen when you’re tucked up in bed feeling sorry for yourself.  It gives you plenty of time in which to wonder at how daintily her heroines do sickness. I bet Miss Bennett’s cold wasn’t of the disgusting, grotty sort that time she was holed up at Netherfield after catching a chill in the rain. And I also bet Mr Bingley wouldn’t have been quite so amazed at her loveliness if he’d seen her snuffling, red-nosed and bleary-eyed, high on Lemsip and surrounded by soggy, used tissues…. Nice.

After reading in dribs and drabs over the week I had a late surge on Saturday afternoon and managed to finish Emma shortly before tea. Three days later I’m still trying to decide what to think of it. I’m quite sure I liked it, but I couldn’t tell you why or even what the point of it all was. It’s a strange book really; more intricately plotted than the other Jane Austen books I’ve read but it feels like so little actually happens to the protagonist. She does some matchmaking, a little gossiping, and a lot of thinking up love affairs for other people (but not herself). There are a couple of dances, a picnic, some home visits and a walk or two but not a great deal more in the way of ‘action’. The whole point, I think, is that while all these little things are happening we have the chance to observe all the characters through Emma’s eyes. It’s nice but it leaves you feeling curiously detached. It’s such a relief when something does happen to Emma that you just wish it could have happened sooner.

I suppose what I’d really have liked is more Mr. Knightley. And more dancing.

In all that activity it’s the characters that make the book shine. I loved poor Miss Bates, was jealous of Jane Fairfax, detested that awful Mrs. Elton. Austen is so good at bringing you on side with her characters. They’re wonderful. I even grew to like Emma eventually, which is saying much. For the first half of the book I thought she was too spoilt, too silly, too much of a snob to be really likeable. It doesn’t help that she constantly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities and allows her imagination to lead her wildly astray…. but it’s kindly meant. Eventually she realises how hurtful and humiliating her meddling can be.

I’ve had a few days off since Saturday but I started The Sot Weed Factor yesterday, poor Lady Audley having once again been cast aside in favour of another book. It’s a longish one, and pretty heavy going, but I’ll do my best not to neglect the blog so much this week.

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7 thoughts on “Emma (1815) by Jane Austen

  1. Pingback: September round-up | the blue bore

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