This is the second Jane Austen I’ve read (I read Persuasion last summer), and I enjoyed Emma much more than Persuasion. That’s probably because the latter was not fully finished – and therefore probably not fully edited – when Austen died. I don’t think she had time to give it as much charm as she usually does. Of course, that ‘usually’ is an assumption on my part, but I say it because I have a good many friends who love Austen and have devoured her works, and always talk about her charm and humor. Persuasion was slightly lacking in those departments for me!
Emma, however, was full of both charm and humor. The characters are just slightly caricatured – real enough to be people you feel you’ve met before, but off enough to get full measure of all their quirks up front. I enjoyed them all, though I do admit that some of the jokes got a little annoying by about halfway through because they were repeated so often. Austen could have used a little moderation there.
I had no idea that Emma was the basis for the movie Clueless. It only took a few chapters, however, to see how similar the two were. I was laughing at a scene near the beginning where Mr. Elton is exclaiming over Emma’s painting of her friend Harriet, thinking how I knew that Emma was misinterpreting his affections by believing them to be for Harriet rather than for her artistic talents. I was only a quarter of the way through the book when I mentioned my amusement to Jason, and he said that Clueless WAS based on Emma, so I looked it up on IMDb and found he was perfectly right. So I pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen before it did. Not that I think the reader was ever supposed to be in doubt. I think the reader was supposed to know better than Emma the whole time. There’s one character, for instance, who is portrayed in Clueless as the gay friend, and I sincerely doubted his character in this book, Frank Churchill, was going to turn out to be gay (might have been shocking in the early 1800s), but I still knew way in advance that he was secretly engaged to…well, I’d better not spoil it. 😉
I’m one of those fools who really likes Clueless. I think it’s fun. A couple days into the book, in fact, I broke down and watched it, because of all the reminders in Emma. It was delightful, and I’ll say the same thing for the book. I have very little to say negatively about it. I didn’t see any super greatness of depth, the lessons learned are fairly simply laid out, but I appreciated the read, and it was definitely a fun change from some of my normal books. It feels as if Austen enjoyed writing it, like she had fun. I don’t think, however, I can read more than one Austen book a year; her prose style is just a little too much after awhile. Small doses. So in another couple years, maybe I’ll have read the whole set.