Classics · Comedy · Fiction · Humor · Romance

Emma

Emma
by: Jane Austen

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.

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Classics · Fiction · Humor

Bertie Wooster Sees it Through

bertie-wooster-sees-it-through

 

by: P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse is my absolute favorite feel-good author.  He has a delightful sense of humor and the perfect light touch; one can never finish one of his books without smiling.  I’ve only read his Bertie and Jeeves books, but I do love them.  Though I actually prefer to listen to the audiobooks for these, rather than actually reading.  (Something about a narrator with a British accent and a perfect sense of timing makes these the perfect books to listen to.)

Bertram Wooster, generally known as Bertie, is our narrator: a young English buck, genial and good-natured with a brain full of fluff. Bertie’s guardian angel is Jeeves, mastermind and butler extraordinaire, who has a gigantic brain – probably from all that fish oil, Bertie asserts.  Bertie constantly finds himself in trouble – he has aunts aplenty to aggravate him; he often finds himself engaged (and good manners prevent him from refusing a woman); and it seems that jealous lovers, rouge nephews, and tetchy uncles are constantly endangering his life.

Bertie Wooster Sees it Through is no exception.  His Aunt Dahlia, a lovely old relation (and not to be confused with the horrid Aunt Agatha) calls upon him to help her persuade a gent to buy her failing magazine, Milady’s Boudoir.  Bertie himself is preparing for the Darts competition at his club, where it is generally thought that he’ll take home the prize.  He’s been bet on by Stilton Cheesewright, a man who is currently engaged to Florence, an intellectual girl whom Bertie found himself engaged to, and then unengaged to, a few books back.  Florence, author of the novel Spindrift is working with screenwriter and poet Percy Gorringe to produce a play based on her book; sadly, they find themselves 1000 pounds short after a backer suddenly falls through.  And to top it all off, Jeeves is back from vacation and he strongly disapproves of Bertie’s new mustache.

Confused yet?  Wodehouse writes a whirlwind of merriment, where his delicate touch gives even the most mundane of sentences a lilting, laughing touch.  This is escapism fiction at its finest – nothing bad can ever occupy your mind while lost in the world of Bertie and Jeeves.  This is one of the better Bertie and Jeeves adventure – they’re all excellent, of course, but some are more excellent than others.  Now, the books follow a fairly predictable broad structure, but that’s part of their charm.  Something about the structure allows your mind to fully immerse in Wodehouse’s wonderful command of the English language.

Bertie is at his finest here, using his brains, such as they are, to ward off impeding danger from Cheesewright and finding himself hampered by his own initiative.  What I like most about BWSIT, in particular, is that Bertie is forced to find a few solutions without Jeeves (!), temporary though they may be, but he is still reliant on Jeeves.  It’s a nice mix of Jeeves’ amazing competence and Bertie’s, well, Bertie-ness. There’s also a certain nonchalance that Bertie displays, that engagements come and go but there’s no real danger of being married, that really adds to the humor.

There’s not wordplay; here, the charm exists in the turn of phrase; Bertie’s less-than-average intelligence makes his observations all that more hilarious.  The humor is nearly all situational but it’s not raunchy or objectionable – you could play the audiobooks with children around without a worry in the world.  A good quote from the very beginning, on aunts: “Well, this Dahlia is my good and deserving aunt, not to be confused with Aunt Agatha, the one who kills rats with her teeth and devours her young, so when she says Don’t fail me, I don’t fail her.”

If you love charming words, dry British humor, or humor in general, and if you need a book to escape into that will make you laugh and lift your spirit, I recommend Bertie Wooster Sees it Through (particularly the audiobook).  If your sense of humor runs more exclusively towards explicitly overt comedies, like “Wedding Crashers” or “The Hangover,” or straight-out slapstick humor, like the Stooges, than this may not be your cup of tea.