I have been a devoted Jane Austen fan since I first picked up Pride and Prejudice in sixth grade. I own all of her published works, I talk about them all the time, I stick up for Jane when others try to diss her (yes, it's happened; no, it's not pretty), I make horrified faces at the P&P sequels I see at B&N (Pemberly erotica? we live in a cruel world), etc.
That being said, I hadn't read Emma in about five years. Isn't that sad? I own the Jeremy Northam movie version, and I probably watch it twice a year. But, in my mental rankings, Emma was second only to Sense and Sensibility for my least-favourite Austen. Which means I still enjoyed it more than a lot of other books I own! Nevertheless, when I reach for some Jane to add sparkle to my day, Emma gets passed by. So, when I was developing my list of classics for the Summer Reading Challenge, I decided to toss it into the mix.
Boy, am I glad that I did. I needed her last week, when my illness was threatening to get the better of me, and I was feeling pretty down. Being transported to Highbury for a little while was just what I needed. When Virginia Woolf talked about Jane, she said something to the effect that Austen's genius was the most difficult to catch in the act. (I just conducted a ten minute fruitless internet search for the quote, so maybe I'm imagining it) While that's true, I have to share what I believe to be the most cutting insult I have ever come across, and that to me represents Austen's stunning, but simultaneously subtle, ability with the English language:
Ouch. Emma also provides a very satisfying love scene; for me, more fulfulling than P&P's. However, I don't want to spoil Emma for anyone who doesn't know the ending, so I won't share my favourite passages. I'm not sure if there's anyone out there for whom the ending could be spoiled, but I would feel awful about it!
Well, the more I sit here staring at the screen, the more I realise that I don't have all that much to say about Emma. I refused to take so much as one lit class in college, because I worried about 'spoiling' my reading experience. To me, Jane Austen is the master for her characters and her light touch. To say anything more about the story would be silly. If you've never read Jane Austen, you should. Even if you've seen all the movies.