Please Don’t Get Too Angry…
I have yet to see the new film adaptation of this book, and I have only seen the 1996 film adaptation of this book (which I loved). With that said, I have to admit that this is the Jane Austen novel that I have least enjoyed of those I have read thus far.
I’m not sure if it was because I read it at the wrong time — frame of mind is a crucial component to how well I connect to a book I’m reading — or if it was because I was just not paying enough attention. Whatever the reason, this book just dragged for me.
All other Austen novels I’ve read so far (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey) pulled me in from page one. Emma on the other hand…just didn’t do it for me.
An Issue of Character
More often than not, even if I massively enjoy the film adaptation, I find myself preferring the book in the end. In the 1999 film, Gwyneth Paltrow did an amazing job pulling you into Emma’s world, and even though you often rolled your eyes in exasperation at her immature point of view and haphazard conclusions reached about those in her life, you also grin a little because Emma is an amusing character despite her shortcomings.
In addition to this, there was an amazing group of supporting characters like Harriet Smith, Frank Churchill, Phillip Elton and Miss Hawkins who also drew you into their world. They provided humorous tension, inspired the inner romantic and added to the complexity of the plot. Because I felt like the 1999 film portrayed these characters so well, I was really excited to read the book.
Where the book failed for me as a reader was its inability to pull me into each character’s world and point of view, regardless of how I reacted to them on the emotional level. I wasn’t amused by Emma’s immature antics; I wasn’t irritated with Miss Hawkins inability to hold her tongue; I didn’t care about the doomed-to-fail romance between Frank Churchill and Emma; I wasn’t sated by the eventual marriage between Emma and Mr. Knightly.
I felt myself reading out of obligation rather than interest. Maybe I just read this book at the wrong point of time in life. Maybe if I read it now, I’d connect to the characters more deeply than I had before. Maybe I’d like them more.
It’s going to take some time for me to work up to the point where I want to reread this one, especially since my To Be Read list of books in my home library and on the various book reader apps I have on my iPad is bursting at the seams.
What did you think about Emma? Did you like it? Did it disappoint? I’d love to hear your thoughts!