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Emma - the Novel 2010 > Emma as a mystery story

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Jane Austen member P posted this on another thread, but I think it should be of interest to all of us. P.D. James has been writing detective fiction for a long time, so I have to think she knows what she's talking about. Another way to look at Emma?

I found this quote from P.D.James delightful and very interesting. It's from her 'Talking about Detective Fiction" which I am highly anticipating. There's an NPR interview from Dec 09.

"But perhaps the most interesting example of a mainstream novel which is also a detective story is the brilliantly structured Emma by Jane Austen. Here the secret which is the mainspring of the action is the unrecognised relationships between the limited number of characters. The story is confined to a closed society in a rural setting, which was to become common in detective fiction, and Jane Austen deceives us with cleverly constructed clues (eight immediately come to mind) — some based on action, some on apparently innocuous conversations, some in her authorial voice. At the end, when all becomes plain and the characters are at last united with their right partners, we wonder how we could have been so deceived."



message 2: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 226 comments I have always looked at Emma with that type of angle. It reminds me of those Murder Mystery parties. Sure there isn't a dead person BUT you're finding little clues about each other and GASP! Blamo! You find out these secret relationships. You could say it's Gossip Girl + Mystery = Courtship Follies!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Emma is surely Austen's most well written and clever novel; and I think P.D. James is correct -- it really is a mystery at its heart. Every time I read it I am 'smacked' up-side-the-head with some new insight; and I always say to myself, "Doh! Why didn't I pick up on that before!" The writing and plotting is so finely polished and is such a joy to read. Another novel that I put up in that extraordinarily lofty position of 'best book in the English language' is Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. Cheers! Chris


message 4: by Christy (new)

Christy | 14 comments I agree. But what exactly is the mystery? Is it the Jane/Frank engagement? Or is it Mr Knightley's love for Emma? Maybe the mystery itself is that Emma is in love with mr/ Knightley and doesn't know it? I would say all of these make the novel the exciting experience it is--even if it all takes place in a sleepy country village.

This element of surprise must make Emma fun to re-read. One can notice "clues" to the solution that he or she didn't notice the first time.


message 5: by Shaun (new)

Shaun | 123 comments Ooh, that does sound like a fun challenge! I need to do a re-read as soon as I get the chance!


message 6: by Christy (new)

Christy | 14 comments Shaun wrote: "Ooh, that does sound like a fun challenge! I need to do a re-read as soon as I get the chance!"

I've actually only read it once--and that as a read-out-loud CD. Emma was the hardest Austen for me to read; all the rest were comparatively easy. I just kept getting annoyed at her and didn't want her plans to succeed. I have came to love it though, when I did listen to it. Mrs. Bates can't be beaten for humor!

I should re-read it soon, though.


message 7: by Shaun (new)

Shaun | 123 comments I know what you mean! I was kind of talking back (nope, actually yelling) at my book, "don't do it Emma! Mind your own business!" But that was probably why they had a Mr. Knightley. Although he was harsh with her, he was "our" voice.


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