Emma by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a terrific book! I'd heard about how unlikable Emma is as a character and I have to disagree. Yes, she can be infuriating but she is truly sorry for her mistakes, tries to change, and has a sense of humor when she catches herself falling back into her bad habits. I found her lively, open, and lovable. I especially loved the tender way she took care of her father.
Interestingly, everyone in the book falls prey at some point to Emma's habit of drawing completely wrong conclusions except Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates. I quickly grew very fond of both those characters who did everything with a great concern for those around them. It was just everyone's misfortune that they had such quirky ways of expressing their concern. Every time they would appear I'd settle back with great enjoyment to hear them talk since they were so hilarious (unintentionally on their parts, completely intentional on that of the author).
It was also interesting to see Austen work with such a closed society. Occasionally people would come or go but our focus is always on Highgate. It was almost like watching a scientific experiment as to what the effect would be on the settled social system by adding a young eligible bachelor or lowbrow social climber. And no wonder people would spend 15 minutes talking about how best to get the mail. Eventually that is one of the greatest points of interest in one's day with so few outside resources. Eventually I would begin laughing when one of those conversations would begin, wondering how long Austen could keep it going by having new people enter the conversation just when it was dying out.
I must mention that I listened to Juliet Stevenson's audiobook and it was simply superb. I credit her with the fact that I enjoyed Mr. Woodhouse, Mrs. Eliot, and Miss Bates so much. Her impeccable inflections, emphases, and characterizations made this book come alive.
All in all, a most delightful book.