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Emma (Penguin Popular Classics) Paperback – Unabridged, 13 Jan 1994
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Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, "Emma" is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.
About the Author
Jane Austen, the daughter of a clergyman, was born in Hampshire in 1775, and later lived in Bath and the village of Chawton. As a child and teenager, she wrote brilliantly witty stories for her family's amusement, as well as a novella, Lady Susan. Her first published novel was Sense and Sensibility, which appeared in 1811 and was soon followed by Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Austen died in 1817, and Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published posthumously in 1818.
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This is the story of coming of age of Catherine Morland, aged 17, a silly and immature but good-hearted, honest and likeable young damsel, who meets two very different suitors during her sejour in the good city of Bath somewhere around 1810. The heroin, let's stress it again, is very likeable but not particulalry clever and especially she is mentaly completely immersed in her favourite books - gothic novels. This lack of maturity and common sense as well as a certain estrangement from reality will play her a couple of nasty tricks, from which she will have to learn some valuable lessons... I will say no more about the plot.
Other than the usual delights of Jane Austen humour, wit and sharp social observations, this book offers an extra treat - it is the one in which we can see the real birth of author's talent. The first half of the book makes for a pleasant reading but not much more, as author, who was only 23 when writing her first novel, clearly was still hesitating, treading carefully and learning her trade. But past the middle point, suddenly we see the young writer spreading her wings and soar! Some writers graduate from honest labourer to gret master from one book to another but I think it is the first time I saw the birth of a major writer in the middle of a novel. It impressed me greatly.
My personal copy of "Northanger Abbey" was a Barnes & Noble "old style" hardback, part of "Barnes & Noble Classics" collection. Its very "passé" aspect (going as far as artificially yellowed paper and irregularly shaped edges of pages) actually increased the pleasure I took in reading this very pleasant, entertaining and in many moments quite amusing short novel. I will definitely keep this book and pass it one day to my kids...
I will say no more here about the book. Get it, read it, love it and one day come back to it. ENJOY!
I finished reading this novel last weekend, within a completed works compilation (free on here) where I became increasingly convinced as the story progressed, that there had to be quite a few errors. I'm going to compare this one to the last one, and a printed copy that is lying around but has spiteful print and I hope to sort out some ambiguities that are really bugging me.
All I can say is, after reading the first 10 pages, the punctuation is already much improved compared to the other (free) version on here - what a relief that is!
I've also bought the study notes to go with it, because I was fascinated to recently learn that the biographical interpretation of the novel actually pertains to Wentworth as Jane, rather than Anne as Jane. I think this is a truly fascinating insight and just goes to show that if you have a gripe, the best thing to really do is, thrash it out creatively.
Update 09 July 2014:
Have compared this to my paper copy and pleased to say its spot on, only found very obvious, tiny, typo errors, punctuation etc, all fine. (The earlier copy I read (mentioned above) must have been abridged because this one has all the details about minor characters that are often missed out in dramatisations.)
As usual, McCall Smith reveals his wry and humorous observation of class classics and behaviour, while bringing Jane's characters back to life in the twenty-first century. Great holiday or fireside reading.
I found the storyline to be unexciting. Apart from Isabella, the characters lack substance; the man with whom the heroine falls in love, comes across as pedantic and irritating. I can't get too bothered about whether "she gets her man" if I I don't think he's that special in the first place!
That said, it was pleasant reading and there are times when the writing style is superb.
So, I recommend this book if you like reading classics but it's not a patch on 'Pride and Prejudice'.
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