Friday, May 09, 2008

REVIEW: Emma by Jane Austen

Adventures in Storytelling: Romance
Review by Alisha Iserman, Mount Pleasant Public Library

Although she was not extraordinarily well-known as an author during her lifetime, Jane Austen has gained much popularity these last two centuries. Not only have her novels been made into many film adaptations but there are also numerous Jane Austen sequel books such as Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen's Emma by Joan Aiken, Lovers' Perjuries; or, The Clandestine Courtship or Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill: a Retelling of Jane Austen's Emma by Joan Ellen Delman and Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston.

When the novel opens, we find Emma Woodhouse and her father mourning the loss of Emma's governess of sixteen years. Though Miss Taylor marries and lives only a half mile away, they are both distraught with her departure. Not sad for too long, Emma finds comfort in befriending Harriet Smith, a young girl who may not be a gentleman's daughter. Emma attempts her matchmaker skills with Harriet. She wants to match her with a gentleman. And while focusing on Harriet's love life, Emma finds a love of her own. In fact, he is a certain gentleman that she has known for quite some time.

One of the aspects of Emma that I much enjoy is the relationship between Emma and Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor is Emma's governess but they act more like sisters. Emma goes to Miss Taylor when she craves conversation or even when she needs advice. Emma cherishes Miss Taylor's advice even though she does not always heed her advice. Another aspect that I enjoy is the setting. I like picturing the English countryside and the people who once inhabited it. I imagine huge estates with beautiful courtyards. I imagine taking tea with the characters on a porch overlooking the gardens. I also enjoy Emma as she plays the role of matchmaker. While she has good intentions, her matchmaking most often goes awry. This reminds me of my own attempt at matching my sister with different friends of mine. My intentions were always good; however, good intentions are sometimes not enough.