Book Review | Emma


It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen. Going into 2017, I had two of her novels left to read: Sense & Sensibility and Emma. I knew I wanted to read at least one of them this year, and it didn’t take me very long to decide on Emma. Why? Because I knew I’d like it the least. I’ve been putting it off for a long time – after attempting to read it for a college course about five years ago and getting so annoyed with it I gave up – and if I wanted to have all of Austen’s works under my belt, it had to happen. Obviously, I was a bit biased going in, but I did attempt to give this book a fair shot. After all, it is Jane Austen.


(From Goodreads) mma is young, rich and independent. She has decided not to get married and instead spends her time organising her acquaintances’ love affairs. Her plans for the matrimonial success of her new friend Harriet, however, lead her into complications that ultimately test her own detachment from the world of romance.


I18300260t should come as no surprise that I did not like this book. Emma – the main character – is easily one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever read. Which made reading Emma a huge struggle for me. I just didn’t enjoy reading it, and picking it up (I was determined to finish) felt like a chore. It is her second longest novel – after Mansfield Park – and it felt like it. Normally, I love the complexities of Austen’s writing, and the leisurely pace she takes; her books beg to be savored. But Emma felt overly long and drawn out, and I just wanted to be done with it.

When I previously attempted to read this book, I didn’t like her at all, but was honestly hoping my perspective had changed after getting my master’s in English (and studying Romantic literature in depth) and reading a few hundred more books. I kept reminding myself that Catherine Morland is naive and occasionally frustrating as a character, but she doesn’t keep me from adoring Northanger Abbey. Still, something about Emma just gets under my skin. It’s like having Lydia Bennet as a protagonist. And if you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you might be able to imagine. (And if you haven’t, go do it. Seriously.) I just couldn’t connect with her, and, as a result, couldn’t connect with many of the other characters either.

Comparing Emma to Austen’s other novels, I was surprised to find that, chronologically, it was her penultimate work. While the writing is still great and quintessentially Austen, it feels much less mature than her other novels, apart from Northanger Abbey, which was her first (written, not published), and still charming in it’s own way. Emma lacks the Romantic feminism of Pride & Prejudice, the pragmatism of Persuasion, the heart-wrenching drama of Mansfield Park, and the Gothic intrigue of Northanger Abbey. For me, it falls short compared to Austen’s other work, and I just can’t bring myself to love it as much as I love her other novels.


★★☆☆☆ – I contemplated giving Emma three stars, but, ultimately, I just didn’t enjoy this book at all. Still, I am glad to have FINALLY read Emma, and am looking forward to completing the works of Jane Austen soon.

If you’ve read Emma, what did you think? What’s your favorite Austen novel?

And, if you are so inclined to purchase a copy for yourself, may I suggest the Vintage Classics edition? It’s almost gorgeous enough to make me like this book more. (Emma, along with the rest of Austen’s novels are also available in the public domain, meaning you can read them for free online or as ebooks.)

To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Emma as one of your two free books (which you get to keep even if you cancel). Since it’s a classic, there are several narrators and editions for you to choose from – I believe you can even get it abridged if you’re so inclined.

22 thoughts on “Book Review | Emma

  1. Emma is probably my favourite Austen! I couldn’t help laughing when I read your review. My least favourite (by far) was definitely Persuasion and all of my English Lit friends hate Mansfield Park (I haven’t read that one yet). I think Sense & Sensibility will be more your cup of tea 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. See, I really liked Persuasion and Mansfield Park (though that one’s definitely not my favorite). But everyone has different tastes – I don’t think Emma was a bad book in any respect, it just wasn’t for me. I’m looking forward to Sense & Sensibility, though!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Emma (followed by Sense and Sensibility) is my least favourite Austen, but I’m pretty sure we’re in the minority. I just felt like there was a big chunk in the middle where nothing much happened? But I did love the mini-series (the Romola Garai one) and the film 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Romola Garai series is what made me really want to give this book another chance – it’s so good! And I agree about nothing really happening in the middle. I honestly think Emma might have been a four-star book for me if it had been half as long.


  3. It’s like having Lydia Bennet as a protagonist.

    HA!!!! Well said. I liked Emma, but I like it because I feel that Austen is presenting us with a woman of great potential who is wholly bored, and therefore will probably end up like Catherine de Bourgh. YIKES.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is hilarious! I enjoyed reading Emma, but yes– she as a character was ANNOYING. You nailed it! Had such a fun time chuckling to read somebody else say it. Nice, honest review! (I’m also an Austen fan.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Shame you didn’t like this one cos it’s my favourite- but it is funny how Austen’s novels can produce such varied reactions in terms of who likes which one- because although I like all of them but Mansfield Park, my order of preference will be completely different to a lot of other people 🙂 and given that you liked the others, I reckon, like Tristen said, you’ll love Sense and Sensibility!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely need to read Sense & Sensibility soon! And I really enjoyed Mansfield Park haha. It’s not my favorite, but I definitely liked it a lot more than Emma (the film adaptation is weird, though). I love how everyone has their own opinions of Austen’s novels.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good review! I haven’t read any Austen, I’ve only seen some adaptations. But I love the BBC one of Pride and Prejudice, as well as the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so I’m hoping to read it at some point! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review! Emma is definitely not my favorite Austen book, but I do really enjoy the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version. I don’t understand why so many rave about Emma (the book). I need to give Emma another chance someday! My favorite Austen book is Persuasion. I re-read Sense and Sensibility last year, hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve given Emma two chances, and I still don’t get it. But to each their own, I guess. I love Persuasion, too! The longer it’s been since I’ve read it, the more I love it. It’s such a great story.

      Liked by 1 person

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