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Customer Review

on 10 April 2012
Ah, the original feel-good romantic comedy. Snotty and arrogant Emma Woodhouse, takes it upon herself to arrange the love lives of her friends and neighbours in quiet and dreary Highbury. Is she as clever as she thinks she is?

This is a book that you probably feel you have read, even if you haven't. The plot and characters have been borrowed by two dozen TV and film adaptations, plus many hundreds (thousands?) of romantic novels. To escape these, you probably need to move to North Korea. So you already know the story, the characters, and the ending. Is it worth reading the novel?

Hell yes. This is one of the funniest books ever written. Jane Austin's piercing dry wit runs through every page, striking at the brilliant and believable characters, ridiculing the banality of village life, and achieving a perfect balance of humour, sympathy and wisdom. People who don't like this book typically raise two criticisms: the heroine is irritating, and nothing happens. Personally, I find Emma funny because she is so irritating. As for 'nothing happens', well that's true, except for the intimate portrayal of a whole community, in which half a dozen people fall in love.

Who bought Jane Fairfax the harpsichord? Will Frank Churchill visit Highbury? Will Miss Bates shut up? The characters are entirely convincing; they more or less jump out of the book and offer you a cup of tea. Time and again, I found myself thinking 'I know someone like that', and the best character of all is the flawed and incompetent heroine. Good characters don't have to be likable, but they better be interesting.
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