Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
ISBN: 0755331486
Publisher: Headline
First Published: 1815
No. of pages: 484

Rating: 3/5

Often said to be Jane Austen’s most perfect novel: Beautiful, clever and rich, Emma Woodhouse thinks she knows best. She only wants to help others arrange things as she thinks they should be done, and convinced she’s just not destined to find true love herself, she believes that she must instead devote herself to playing Cupid for others. But absolutely nothing goes to plan – and in the process, Emma has a lot of learning to do: about others, but most of all about herself…

Only 3 chapters in, I wondered if I was being coerced into seeing Emma as she is seen by Mr. Knightley, as he appears to feel she is a thoroughly spoiled creature who is completely enamoured of her own cleverness – exactly as I did. One could almost believe that the story is actually being narrated by Mr. Knightley and that he is including himself as a character in the third person.

As much as I could appreciate it, I can’t say I’m actively enjoyed this novel. I found too many of the characters thoroughly annoying in a million little ways and just couldn’t see the attraction towards any of them as people. I know for a fact that if I were stuck with Highbury Society as shown here, I’d shun the lot of them. Except, perhaps, Mr. Knightly, as I found I agreed with him and felt he was not in it nearly enough for my liking.

I did, however, persevere to the end, as I was determined to finish it. I’m eventually got to grips a little more with the excessively formal style, but found it felt stilted in the reading and, as a result, it felt like it took forever to plough through.

I think that the main part of the problem was that I found the lives of those in this particular area of Regency Society very trivial, and the heroine vacuous and pointless. I’m more used to something a bit meatier in my historical choices, such as the Elizabethan or Tudor courts, or Roman legions in Britain, whereas all those polite exchanges and constant gossiping wore on my nerves more than a little.*

Unfortunately, Emma has not tempted me to read any more of Austen’s novels, which is a shame, because I had intended to, but I don’t think I could stand to wade through them now.**

* I’m aware that this doesn’t actually qualify as historical fiction, as it was written as a contemporary novel, but it feels like historical fiction to me, if rather more bland than my usual tastes.

** Since writing this review in 2006, I have gone on to read and enjoy other Austen novels and now appreciate them far more. However, I still feel the same about Emma. It remains my least favourite of her novels.