“Emma” by Jane Austen (1815)
Continuing my foray into the worlds of both audio books and classics, simultaneously, I have spent the last 6 and a half years… oh, no, that can’t be right… 6 and a half weeks… nope, still not right… a bloody long time, listening to “Emma”. The recording runs for 16 hours, 39 minutes and 54 seconds. Yes. That does translate directly to ‘a bloody long time’. Austen did go on. And on. And on.
“Emma” is, apparently, a book about “youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance”. It’s actually about a lot more than that. It is, as each of Austen’s novels are, a critique of the world she lived in. An exploration of the petty nuances of the social and family lives of the landed gentry in 19th century England. An examination… a comment… on the role of women, and their reliance on the support of men.
The plot of “Emma” includes socialising, match-making, and more socialising. To be honest, nothing else really happens except for visiting: for morning tea; in passing; for lunch; on a walk; for afternoon tea; for dinner; once for a ball; and once for a picnic. In each of these visits there is conversation and in each of these conversations, Emma gets to make observations about, or to, her friends, relatives and neighbours. Emma thinks she knows a lot about each of the people she comes into contact with, and she thinks she has a knack for match-making. She is quite wrong on both accounts. But it is a typical romantic fiction. Everything turns out alright in the end. Sorry for spoiling it.
As a side note, my experience in discussions while listening to this book have proven similar to those of previous classics I’ve blogged about. People think they know this novel. They quote from it. Discuss key moments. But none of it is accurate. The quotes are from the film, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, or the wonderful BBC series. I think “Emma” is, without any doubt, one of the novels people pretend to have read, or feel sure they must have read, at some point. didn’t they? I’ve never pretended, but I can see why you would. It does go on and on and on and on. Did I mention that?