Thursday, October 1, 2015
Emma by Jane Austen - 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition
First published December 1815
200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition published 9/29/2015 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Beautiful, clever, rich—and single—Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée, Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.
This is my third reading, a third copy of Emma but there's no such thing as too much Jane Austen. Besides, look at that beautiful cover! How could I possible pass that up?! Also, I have never had a annotated copy of this novel and I was eager to see what the publisher would add to this beloved classic.
Plus, you know, Emma Woodhouse, one of my all-time favorite characters.
Emma is a typical (even by today's definition) wealthy, spoiled twenty-one year old who is very concerned with propriety and social standing and who believes she knows more than those who try to advise her, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. She's a big fish in a very small pond. But Emma is can also be charming, devoted to her father, and a good friend to those she cares about. Sure she's a snob, but she's self-aware enough to know that she needs to try harder to be a better person. And the joy of the book, of course, is that, eventually, she will be.
Along the way, readers are treated to Austen's always wonderful satire, social commentary, witty dialogue. As always, Austen gives her heroine a bounty of colorful characters including Miss Bates who cannot stop talking, Emma's father with his constant worrying, deceitful Frank Churchill, the annoying Eltons. And let us not forget the steady, endlessly patient Mr. Knightley. Characters I always enjoy revisiting. A book I never tire of rereading.
About the annotations:
Editor Juliette Wells calls this a reader's edition, not a scholarly one. "In other words, the information you'll find here is intended to support your understanding and appreciation of Emma rather than to instruct you in literary terms, theoretical perspectives, or critical debates." She has included an introduction about Austen and her writing, a spelling help page, a glossary and several contextual essays as well a photos of early editions of Emma. It's an edition that will not only aid first-time readers but offers something more to the story for people like me who already consider the book an old friend.
"Emma is special because it’s the capstone of Austen’s career as an author. She had already published three novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park), and she was at the very top of her game as a writer. She didn’t know it, of course, but Emma would be the last book she saw through to publication. When Austen died in July 1817, she left two essentially completed novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), which her brother published at the end of that year. So Emma is the last Austen novel that was published in the exact form that she herself approved.
Emma is also special because it’s the most perfect example of Austen’s particular genius as an author, which is (I think) to create a recognizable, engaging fictional world from the slenderest of materials. She writes about everyday life and ordinary people—you won’t find kings and queens in her novels, or ghosts or vampires. Her effects are wonderfully subtle."