Another perfectly crafted novel by Jane Austen, her longest, and one of her particularly astute works in terms of psychology.
When I first read this sAnother perfectly crafted novel by Jane Austen, her longest, and one of her particularly astute works in terms of psychology.
When I first read this some decades ago, I really couldn't stand Emma Woodhouse. She certainly isn't as immediately appealing as Elizabeth Bennet, my firm favourite at the time. But eventually Emma started to grow on me, and I certainly can't deny she's a canny portrait of a fallible human being. It is hard to forgive her when her arrogance and self-indulgence harms Harriet Smith as well as herself, but then Emma is not the only one to cause others harm in this story, and at least she becomes more self-aware and repentant over time. So, to a lesser extent, does Frank Churchill. Others, especially the Eltons, only seem to make bad choices and grow worse.
I do like a story in which a main character grows enough to deserve and win a full and proper love - 'just to love, and be loved in return', as a wise man once sang. Emma certainly does. Mr Knightley has far less to learn, but needs to realise that he does love, that he needn't be so solitary. Not to mention that he must recognise his own motivations.
Meanwhile, the small community of Highbury becomes slightly less stratified as Emma learns to value inner qualities more, and realise they can be found in the Robert Martins of the world. The jumble of characters in the village and in the surrounding farms and manor houses, are a fascinating bunch. In terms of the writerly craft, there isn't anything out of place; everyone reflects usefully on everyone else's conduct. In terms of life and how she is lived, it is interesting to watch them all get along together, as they must, though inevitably there is an inner, intimate group of those who are worth befriending for their own sake. We all have to muddle through, and can never entirely choose our companions.
I have to say I am really enjoying this opportunity for a close re-reading of Austen's novels. A very rewarding activity! ...more
Really enjoyed this page-turning tale, with an interesting setting and a terrific supernatural element - not to mention the relatively mature pair ofReally enjoyed this page-turning tale, with an interesting setting and a terrific supernatural element - not to mention the relatively mature pair of friends becoming more than fuck-buddies. Excellent work, Chris! ...more
The Juvenilia is a great deal of fun, with outrageously self-centred heroines capable of anything from blithely insulting their best friends in the naThe Juvenilia is a great deal of fun, with outrageously self-centred heroines capable of anything from blithely insulting their best friends in the name of candour, to contracting illicit liaisons, to raising armies, and committing the occasional murder. Austen seems to take great delight in playing with and skewering the novelistic conventions of the day. But it is all done with a light, surprisingly confident touch (for such a young person), and never feels malicious.
The lighter poems were nicely written, while I felt the more serious ones were less so. And I was disappointed in the three prayers. I expected far more eloquence in the latter.
All up, an interesting read, and there's certainly some little treasures in here for Austen fans. ...more
I love this novel, and I love Fanny and Edmund. Austen's pace is measured and assured, her eye is as sharp as it's ever been, and her wryness and honeI love this novel, and I love Fanny and Edmund. Austen's pace is measured and assured, her eye is as sharp as it's ever been, and her wryness and honesty are at full strength. Vitally, her characters are fully alive, which makes the Crawfords all the more dangerous, and Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram all the more intriguingly ambivalent.
One of the things I love about Austen's best work is that everything is there for a purpose, and very precisely so, even if it's not always or immediately obvious. She doesn't always make the choices I would have made as a writer (of course!) but I greatly respect them and love all the pondering she provokes. ...more