My Rating: 5 stars
Ranked as number 38 on the Greatest Books Ever Written List.
“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” ― Emma
Emma tells the tale of Emma Woodhouse, a woman of means, who is an unrelenting matchmaker in early 19th century England. Emma, the sole caretaker of her father, spends her time trying to set people up, often with disastrous results.
Emma, published in 1815, is a Comedy of Errors novel. This type of novel satirizes a particular class of people. In the case of this novel, it is the gentry of 19th century rural England. Comedies of Errors tend to have stereotypical characters. Two that appear in Emma are the fop, someone who is overly concerned with his appearance, and the rake, someone who is a heartless womanizer. We see these two characters in Mr. Elton and Frank Churchill (though Frank may not be as heartless as he appears).
Jane Austen wrote Emma with the intention of creating a main character who no one would like. Emma at first appears to be frivolous and interfering. However, through the novel, we actually see Emma evolve into a much more mature character who recognizes her faults and shortcomings. The character of Emma was a departure for Austen, in the fact that Emma was not worried about income. Also, the character of Mr. Knightley is someone Emma has always known, as opposed to Austen’s other novels.
Emma has always been one of my favorite novels. It strikes me as being more similar to the modern world than Austen’s other novels. I have always loved Mr. Knightley’s character, almost more than Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. It is a novel I read again and again, never tiring of the different adventures Emma finds herself in.
There are several film adaptations of this novel:
Emma (1972) – starring Doran Godwin, John Carson. This was a six-part BBC miniseries.
Clueless (1995) – starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Breckin Meyer. This was a modern adaptation of the novel, using Beverly Hills as the new location. The movie was a sleeper hit and spawned a two season TV series and a series of books.
Emma (1996) – starring Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton. This was a TV movie from the BBC. It was a departure in the sense that Mr. Knightley was portrayed as much fiercer than in the novel.
Emma (1996) – starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Alan Cumming, Toni Collette, Ewan McGregor, Jeremy Northam. This film followed the story closely, but heightened the attraction between Emma and Mr. Knightley.
Emma (2009) – starring Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon. This was a BBC miniseries. It follows the novel closely.
There have also been numerous sequels and stage adaptations.