Includes pictures and an extensive section on Austen's life and works
Emma is considered by many readers to be Jane Austen's crowning achievement, a timeless comedy of manners that lays bare the limits on women's autonomy in Regency England. The disparity between Emma Woodhouse's self-confidence and self-knowledge, and her determination to arrange marriages for her friends while avoiding one for herself, leads to a painful series of misunderstandings for everyone who suffers from her well-meaning altruism - and with Mr Knightley being the only person of her acquaintance who has the good sense to challenge her, Emma must eventually recognize her match in every sense.
Review by John Purcell
I started the year by rereading Jane Austen's Emma. I felt the need to recalibrate my sensibilities after the horror year that was 2016. And nothing but the clear, sensible and wise voice of Jane Austen would do.
Why Emma, when I might have chosen Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and the truly sublime Persuasion?
Let's face it, 2017 already looks irredeemable. Soon Trump will be king of the world. In this climate it will be easy to give up all hope in the possibility for positive change.
Which is why I turned to Emma, over the other novels. Emma Woodhouse, whom Jane Austen said was 'a heroine whom no one but myself will much like', is young, beautiful, rich, headstrong, conceited and blind to many of her own faults. If alive today, Emma would be Insta-famous. But, and this is why I turned to Emma, she learns from her mistakes, eventually, and becomes a better person. This book offers hope.
Unlike other Austen heroines, Emma isn't perfect; she starts off with the great handicap of her own faults, and appears to be fixed in her ways. The world around her doesn't need to be changed, she needs to change. This is opposite to the difficulties faced by her other heroines.
And it is a good lesson in these dark days. We don't need to change the world. We need only change ourselves. Then the problems of the world will fix themselves.
It is the cleverest of books. I especially love the dialogue - every speech reveals the characters' obsessions and preoccupations, yet it remains perfectly natural. -- Susanna Clarke
I read all of Jane Austen's novels very early on and learnt to love her economy of style and precision. She still seems to me the finest writer in the English language. -- Philippa Gregory
A favourite from my school days, and it would always hold its place my heart. Austen's characters are always devastatingly good, and Emma is, for me, her best creation. -- Monica Ali