19 Thoughts Had While Reading Emma by Jane Austen

05:00 Cilla P 6 Comments

You guys, I finished reading a Jane Austen book! 🎉🎉

Why is this such an achievement, you ask? Well, though I've watched Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and a number of their reincarnations on screen, my previous experience with them in print was one of confusion and a lot of effort. At fifteen, the language barrier seemed insurmountable. Now, ten years later, not only did I finish Emma, I understood it. It was still not effortless reading for me, but some parts made me laugh, others made me cringe, and I got it.

Anyway, the point of that intro is this: because I understand the book, I can actually share my thoughts on it with you! This is more a list of random comments than a proper review, but hopefully they're still coherent. 😄 Possible spoilers ahead!

1. "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich... had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." Goodness, I would have liked to not be vexed or distressed until I was twenty-one. 
2.  Emma gets credit for being such a patient and lovely daughter.
3.  But not for being a snob and a classist. I bet she never would have befriended Harriet Smith if she hadn't fancied Harriet to have a genteel parentage.
4. “Better be without sense than misapply it as you do.” I think this one line basically sums up my feeling about Emma. It's actually painful to read someone so convinced of their own perceptions and so clueless to the hints.
5. For better or for worse, I see myself in Mr. John Knightley.
6. I kind of love that Emma is self-sufficient and doesn't need to marry. Marriage doesn't do anything for her except unite her with the man she loves. It's quite different from P&P and S&S where marriage elevates the ladies' position in society. 
7. I really don't think the phrase 'making violent love' means the same thing now as what Austen intended it to be...
8. Has anyone else noticed that the Jane's in Austen books tend to be the reserved, lovely, quite well-accomplished ones? 
9. "Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations that a young person who either marries or dies is sure of being kindly spoken of." LOL.
10. Frank Churchill is almost too charming.
11. Austen writes seriously long sentences.
12. She can also write long monologues. I find Miss Bates' endless chatter almost as exasperating as Emma would. Almost.
13. Miss Bates is nowhere as exasperating as Mrs. Elton though. I think she's just about as vain as Emma is, but in a slightly different way. I kind of want Jane to yell at her already. I guess that's a sign of well-written characters!
14. Mr. Knightley is sixteen years older than Emma. He fell in love with her when she was thirteen. Um, I know it was a different time and all, but... A twenty nine year old falling in love with a thirteen year old? That's just wrong.
15. Honestly, Jane Fairfax deserves so much better. 
16. Mr. Knightley's speech is lovely, but I can't look past the sixteen years difference enough to think it romantic.
17. Um, what kind of person would think of their supposedly dear friend as a 'dead weight' and a 'loser' under any circumstances?? 😞
18. Okay, I will concede that - when you put aside the age difference - Mr. Knightley would be a great husband to have. I mean, he cares for his father-in-law's comfort enough to move out of his house to live with him and Emma. 
19. Final thought: Entertaining and frustrating in equal measures. Emma Woodhouse is snobbish and clueless (despite her self-perceptions) and probably doesn't deserve the great happiness she gets at the end. The great thing about this though, she knows it and the story knows it too. I'd love to love Mr. Knightley and Emma as a couple more, for Mr. Knightley has some excellent qualities and they're good together. However, it's hard to not be creeped out by that sixteen year age gap and the fact that he fell in love with her when she was 13.

Let's talk!
Have you read Emma? What did you think?
If not, have you read any of Jane Austen's work before?

Reading this book contributes to the following challenges:

  • Goodreads Challenge
  • #RockMyTBR Challenge


  1. I was creeped out by the age gap, too! I subconsciously decided to ignore it and pretend they were around the same age. I think that Mr. Knightley's speech was my favorite part of the whole book! Granted, I didn't really like most of the book, so it didn't have a lot to compete with, but age gap aside, it was incredibly sweet.

    Have you heard of the Austentatious book club? It was started by readbyzoe on YouTube, and we read a new Jane Austen book every month! (We're probably moving into other classics soon, since we're going to run out of Jane Austen books.) It's been really fun so far - this month is Mansfield Park! If you're interested in reading that, I'd definitely recommend joining.

    1. I held on to the image of Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai from the BBC's adaptation, 'cause they don't look too far apart age-wise and so isn't too weird!

      No, I haven't heard of that book club! I'll definitely look into it - thanks Clara :D

  2. I just started this one today actually! So I didn't read everything you said because of the spoilers (even though I can tell how this is all going to end).

    I'm having a harder time getting into it because the writing is so different and detailed than what I normally read. But I'm hoping I can get into the groove of things. I had the same "issue" with Pride and Prejudice, but once I got myself oriented, I do enjoy Austen's work!

    1. Same - the writing really is more detailed than I'm used to, and she writes such long sentences. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. The thirteen year old thing is weird, but to be fair doesn't realise he's in love with her until much later, so it doesn't bother me as much as it probably should, haha. (And there's a similar age gap in a lot of classics, like between Jane Eyre and Rochester, and between Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind). I found Emma the most difficult Jane Austen to read, but I did really like it once I got into it. And I love John Knightly! I hate it when they don't include him in the films properly.

    1. Yeah, I guess it must have been more acceptable back then! I think I don't read enough classics. I agree - it's hard to read Emma, maybe because the main character can be so painful to put up with. I agree - they need to include John Knightly better in the adaptions!


Thanks for reading! It makes my day to hear your thoughts and I will respond asap. :)