I love rereading books by listening to the audio books but I often struggle to find books narrated by women. I don’t know why, but there are times when I strongly prefer to listen to a woman’s voice over a man’s and while I have plenty of podcasts that fit the bill, it’s harder for me to find audiobooks. But I decided, after listening to Pride and Prejudice, that I should continue with my Austen adventure and downloaded Emma.
Emma, is, of course, a classic novel by Jane Austen. Written in Georgian-Regency times (thanks Wikipedia!), it follows the titular character through the perils of matchmaking, romance, and growing up. My audiobook was narrated by Juliet Stevenson, who was really excellent. Her voice is elegant and has just the tiniest hint of merriment.
When I first read Emma, I was in early high school. I only read it the once, so while I knew the plot, I really wasn’t prepared for all the comedy I’d missed the first time around. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud more than once, and I’m sure that I walked around grinning like a fool while listening. Austen pokes fun at her characters dryly and deservedly, though kindly. I missed a lot my first read and I remember thinking the plot dragged a bit. Now, when I can appreciate the subtle satire and the ridiculousness of the scenes, I didn’t think it dragged at all, even though not much happens in the story.
It’s a cohesive story and solid plot, but what I loved best are the individual scenes that can stand on their own. My favorite scene involved two rather self-absorbed characters, one quite good-natured, engaged in a conversation where each is determinedly wresting the subject back to their favorite brag every time they speak. I was thoroughly entranced and amused the entire scene – it felt real, funny, and I could definitely think of a few people who it reminded me of! It could have been taken from the story and read just as a scene and been just as satisfying.
Like all Austen books, some of the references and subtle pokes haven’t aged as well – a very few, but there were times when something was clearly supposed to be obvious and I had no clue what was being referenced. And, of course, there’s a lot of subtlety and unspoken context going on in the novel, as in any Austen novel.
I will say, the ending did feel like it dragged on a bit and then, when it did end, it felt rather abrupt. It was particularly noticeable because I was listening to it; I couldn’t start skimming over the last bit after I knew the major problems were resolved. Austen thoroughly ties up every plot line, perhaps a tad too neatly and leaves the reader completely satisfied. Her characters are believable and engaging. Overall, despite the more complex language, it’s a great escapism novel.
If you like things to happen in your novel, clear and straightforward writing, or a hot ‘n’ steamy romance, this, unfortunately, is probably not the book for you. If, however, you like old-fashioned and sweet stories, you love absurd but realistic humor, or you’re just looking for a book to read in a garden with a glass of wine, then I strongly encourage you to give Emma a read.