Author: Jane Austen
About the Author: Jane Austen was born and raised in Hampshire, England (1775-1817), although she lived for some time in Bath. She was educated at the Reading Abbey Girls' School and is best known for her novels: Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park.
Other Books by This Author: Sandition, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, Love and Friendship, My Dear Cassandra
Medium: Hardback, Penguin Classics edition
No. of Pages: 453
Original Publishing Year: 1815 (sometimes dated as 1816)
Genre: Romance, Novel of Manners
Age Rating: 14+
Positive Review: Austen used good descriptive writing to portray the characters' personalities and events of the novel. The dialogue flowed well; it was easy to follow and I didn't lose track of the speaker. I found Miss Bates's dialogues (or perhaps more accurately, "monologues") entertaining; her silly ramblings were quite refreshing. I particularly liked the style they were presented in, with the absence of other characters' responses marked only by the use of dashes (although possibly only her changing subjects quickly), and her excited tone produced a light-hearted mood. I appreciated the allusions Austen made (e.g. to Aladdin's lamp), ones that I could still understand today (times have changed, but some stories haven't). I was very engaged reading situations in which I could make predictions as a spectator (on the edge of my seat with anticipation), and assume the characters' actions but where Emma was ignorant.
Negative Review: Although the writing was descriptive, I found few visual clues as to the appearances of the setting and characters (there was the occasional mention of height and eye color). I also wish her writing had been more concise, many sentences were long-winded and made the story drag, especially in the absence of dialogue. There were many characters presented in the novel, and I struggled to keep track of them and their relationships to others. I disliked how Mrs. Elton and Miss Bates were so nosy, as I very much dislike people who force themselves and their opinions onto others. While I did find Miss Bates's dialogue entertaining, she did irritate me with her seeming disregard to other's thoughts, Mrs. Elton's came across as bothersome. Another person I found disagreeable was Emma. I strongly disliked her character; I could hardly relate to her. She was rude (embarrassing Miss Bates at a social gathering), assumed herself better than others and that she would be forgiven even without apologizing, looked down on others with pity (e.g. Jane and Harriet), was manipulative (indirectly coercing Harriet's response to Mr. Martin's letter), cared too much about the opinions of others towards herself, took someone for granted (didn't realize she liked them until there was the threat of them being taken away) and then regretted befriending the "threat" in the first place, and appeared to have enjoyed Harriet's suffering for the feelings of superiority it granted her. (Thank you for coming to my TED talk)
Overall Review: This was my second Jane Austen read. I read Pride and Prejudice a few years ago and wasn't a fan, but I decided to give her another chance. While the novel wasn't bad, it just didn't hold my attention for long; I was bored and easily distracted (usually I tune out the world almost too well when reading), although the romantic encounters were amusing. There were marital plot twists I hadn't expected, but looking back I can now appreciate the subtle use of foreshadowing, which provided some refreshment to the story. Even though I strongly disagreed with Emma's character, being frustrated with her did keep me from feeling bored. The society of that time is different from mine, so I should not judge her (and the other characters) with the standards we have today. As the novel was also in the third person, the reader is made an observer of the story (I then find it harder to relate to characters) and not an imagined participant (as I feel I am part of the story when reading with the first person "I"). What I believe makes an enjoyable novel is a good writing style that keeps me mesmerized (I just love some styles of wording and punctuation) and the ability to relate to characters. While I did not relate much to the characters in this novel, Emma has received many good reviews and will continue to entertain readers in the future. It was on my list of books to read and I'm glad I read it; I will probably reread Pride and Prejudice and try some of her other books as well. Thus, overall, I do recommend this book, if not for an enjoyable read, then to expand one's reading reservoir.
Summary: 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.
(Summary take from Amazon.com)