by Jane Austen
Publisher: Oxford University
Trade Paperback, 448 pages
Price: $7.95

"I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like," wrote Jane Austen in planning Emma (1816).

Yet few readers have failed to enjoy the ironies of Emma's high-handed vanity, or to warm to her liveliness and wit. While she devotes her formidable energies to matchmaking between friends and acquaintances in the village of Highbury, the plot turns on a romance of which she is wholly unaware. Her own falling in love delights readers who have been anticipating it as profoundly as it perplexes Emma, who has not.

"I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall."

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 protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.

This edition includes a new chronology and additional suggestions for further reading.

Did you find this review helpful?
Customer Reviews
Write a Review Click here to write a review
  Writing for the Reader
Sincerelyornot, 7/8/2011
One of Austen's later works, "Emma" is worth the read less for its storyline and more for its superb writing and insight into Jane Austen's budding writing style.

Its the story of a meddling girl of rank in a small town, and her misguided efforts to play matchmaker. Of course, she finds love and learns the importance of good manners in the process.

The story is not why I go back to this book again and again; its the writing. One scene in particular always takes me back. All our main characters are together, and one chatty old woman can't stop talking. She's so boring and goes on and on, the reader just wants to skim over her speech and get on to the plot developments that seem sure to come any minute. The group goes about their day, but the old woman is the only one who notices what is really going on; everyone else is misled into thier own self-centered version of events. Austen brings the reader into the experience of the characters (they, too, ignore the old woman's insight), so you feel the regret when, much later, they realize what has been missed.

Anyone who wants to write books should read "Emma" as a guide to good scene-building. If you're trying to introduce Austen to a new reader, however, I recommend "Pride and Prejudice" first (Elizabeth is a much more appealing heroine than Miss Woodhouse).
  Well Worth Your Time
HappyHomemaker of Oregon, 5/18/2011
This book begins with a fairly unlikable heroine. She's pretty and rich and admired by all, and therefore thinks herself fit to control the lives of all those around her. This book, then, is the story of how she finds that she's quite mistaken, and it is told with all the wit and deft that Jane Austen is known for.
I had a hard time getting into this book (the 3rd or 4th try I finally made it!), but the insight Austen shows is well worth the effort.