A day or two after Christmas last year, still in the festive afterglow fuelled by a haze of alcohol and country air, I had a conversation with my cousins in which we discussed our resolutions for the new year. With reading always a priority of mine, I vowed that by the end of 2014 I would have read at least 10 more books from the BBC Big Read. Thus it was with great alarm that as summer began giving way to Autumn I realised that I hadn’t read a single one. I already own a number of books that I’m yet to read from the BBC Top 100 Reads, and it happened that Emma by Jane Austen was the nearest to hand; and so it was that I quickly began it.
Those that know me or are privy to my reading habits know that Austen is an author I’ve always struggled to read. I somehow made my way through my GCSEs, double English A Levels and a degree in English Literature without having read any of her novels and it was only when I began this blog that I finally read Pride and Prejudice – which took the second place in the BBC’s poll. I began Emma with a level of trepidation that I always have when unsure of whether I’ll enjoy a book but thankfully in this instance my fears were ill-founded.
First published almost two-hundred years ago, the novel tells the tale of twenty-year old Emma, who, perfectly content with her life as it is and convinced she will never marry, goes about interfering in the love life of others, often with ill-fated consequences. Having made a successful match between her governess and village widower Mr Weston, she then sets her sights on finding a suitable husband for her friend Harriet, though things don’t turn out quite as either of the characters had hoped.
Emma’s flaws contribute hugely to her charming character and the namesake of the novel is certainly the most likeable character of Austen’s I’ve read thus far. Something of a satire on what life was like in Austen’s time, Emma is a witty, refreshing and endearing tale and it’s clear to see why Austen last novel is often hailed as her best.