Book Review: Emma

I think Emma has possibly maybe taken over as my favorite Austen story. The 1996 film adaptation with Gwyneth Paltrow was my first exposure, and I enjoyed it, but then I saw the 2009 BBC mini-series version and I fell completely in love with it! Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller were truly perfection in it. And then with Emma Approved coming out this year, I decided my Austen read for the year needed to be Emma. And though as the longest of Austen’s works it did start to eventually wear on me and feel a little too long, overall it was still the most enjoyable experience I have had so far reading an Austen novel.


Emma is not the most likable character (though more likable than I think some people have made her out to be… mostly she’s just young and naive), and I don’t relate to her as well as Lizzie. I find all the interactions with her friends and family to be the most interesting out of any Austen story I’ve read, however, and there is just something so sweet about the Knightley and Emma romance. He has known her for her entire life and he knows her faults extremely well, and he’s not afraid to point them out to her. And yet, he loves her deeply. And for her the revelation that she loves him is, “Of course!” It makes sense.

emma-knightley2I also love how many quirky characters are in the story, like Mr. Woodhouse, Miss Bates, and Harriet Smith. They are far from the air of perfection certain characters (the Eltons and Frank Churchill, namely) try to give off. Harriet is a nobody with very little in the way of social graces, but she is kind and loyal. Much can be the same as Miss Bates, though she is less charming and more chatty. Mr. Woodhouse is well-meaning and loves his daughter with great devotion, but is an extreme worrier and germaphobe who is basically afraid to live any life outside of his house. But we see just as many flaws in the characters that supposedly have it all together, including Emma. And I like that about the story.

emma-approved-harrietIf you enjoy the story from its various adaptations, I think you’ll enjoy the book. It might get a little tedious, and Austen’s writing is not the easiest to read in general, but I think it’s worth the journey.

4stars2Have you read Emma? What are your thoughts? Which Emma adaptation is your favorite?


12 Responses to Book Review: Emma

  1. I read and immensely enjoyed the novel years ago before I saw the film with Paltrow. This is my second time in less than a week hearing someone rave about the BBC version with Romola Garai, so it seems imperative now for me to see that one as well! (The BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice with Ehle and Firth will *always* be my favorite version of that film.) I’ve only seen Garai in one other movie so far, Amazing Grace. 🙂

    • I actually haven’t seen the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice! I know, I know! I had not connected Garai with Amazing Grace until I looked her up on IMDB at some point. I need to rewatch that movie sometime.

  2. I am just starting to read this – and hope to marathon the Emma youtube series after because I’m woefully behind on it. I’m barely into the first chapter, but I have high hopes for liking this book, I mean I enjoyed Mansfield Park and this book has to be better than that! 🙂 Your post has made me so eager to watch Emma on youtube already though! But I’ll be patient…

  3. This is probably my second favorite Austen novel after Persuasion and I think a lot of that comes down to how believable I find Knightley to be (certainly I think he’s the Austen male I’m most like). He’s a really wonderful character and I always cheer when he and Emma get together.
    Emma Approved was rather lovely and while I haven’t seen a bad version of this yet, my favorite is easily the other 1996 movie version starring Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong. I think of all of the versions this is the one that comes closest to capturing the dynamics between the two in the book and Strong is wonderfully stern in the picnic scene. 🙂

      • I hope you enjoy it if you do get a chance to see it! I can imagine it would be a little strange to see Mark Strong play a romantic lead after seeing him as Lord Blackwood but I do think he does a great job. Beckinsale’s an excellent Emma too, come to that. 🙂

  4. I love Emma, she is just so human and real..I think we all have a bit of Emma in our personalities, definitely she epitomizes our teen and early 20’s when we think we know everything and how the world is best to be run..whereas Knightley is if IRC in his late 30’s which is where we find out we know nothing and it is best to let others run their own lives LOL

  5. I am in loooooooooooove with Emma! (As I’m sure you’re aware by now.) It’s easily my favourite Austen book thus far and I enjoyed it a lot more than Pride & Prejudice. While I also couldn’t relate to Emma as much as I could with Lizzie, I did enjoy the dynamics between the characters’ relationships a whole lot more. It made me laugh and it made me feel things I wasn’t expecting, and I walked away from the book wanting to find a companionship/friendship/love like that of Emma’s and Knightley’s. I haven’t watch Paltrow’s adaptation of it, but I really loved Romola Garai as Emma — it was a great mini series!
    Lovely review 🙂

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