Emma is young, rich and independent. She has decided not to get married and instead spends her time organising her acquaintances’ love affairs. Her plans for the matrimonial success of her new friend Harriet, however, lead her into complications that ultimately test her own detachment from the world of romance.
If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.
I first picked up Emma in my year 12 class in high school and I remember detesting this novel. I only read about half of it. I really disliked Emma as the protagonist, I found the plot boring, and I genuinely couldn’t believe that Jane Austen, who wrote Price and Prejudice, also wrote this book.
And then I decided to give it another go.
And I LOVED it.
I think this book is proof that your reading taste in high school is undoubtedly going to develop and mature as you become an adult. Because I can’t believe I ever hated this book! It has everything I absolutely adore in an Austen novel: a headstrong main character, a dry-witted love interest, a colourful background cast, and beautiful writing and topical social commentary.
The novel follows a rich independent young woman named Emma, who has grown up being the mistress of her father’s house after the death of her mother and her older sister getting married. So she’s very used to getting her way and nobody contradicts her. Except for Mr Knightly, her brother-in-law and the only person who is not afraid to tell her off. When Emma successfully sets up her governess with a local wealthy man, she gets it into her head that she’s an incredible matchmaker. And when she meets a poor school-girl named Harriet, Emma takes it upon herself to set Harriet up with a local preacher … and ends up getting everyone involved in ridiculous shenanigans.
Emma is a fantastic protagonist. She’s so bossy, so headstrong, and quite unlikable … unless you’re me. I find it so interesting that Jane Austen once said she didn’t think anyone would like Emma aside from herself, but I absolutely adore her. I found her domineering attitude so refreshing in a female character from a Regency novel.
And it would be remiss of me not to mention my favourite quote in Emma, perhaps in all of Austen’s novels: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
Bottom line: READ THIS BOOK!