In this iteration of the Austen scheme, a wealthy young woman who is given to meddling in other peoples’ affairs in order to gain some amusement in her quiet country town suffers the consequences of being too sure of a know it all. In consequence, of course, she falls in love, though there are numerous trials, tribulations, and comic characters (and a bit of a rake) to be encountered before the happy ending. This book is mostly enjoyable, though again, not within my favorite of Austen’s works. Here, the strengths are the small, closed country circle of the small village, the way in which the social hierarchies are played out within it; also, the sheer charm and vivacity of Emma herself are an attraction. Though some of her actions are a bit questionable at times, she is too well-meaning and simply amusing to hate her too much when she’s doing them.
Emma also suffers, a bit, from the “young girl is molded by wise older man syndrome,” which bothered me so much in Mansfield Park. However, it is not so marked and creepy, because Emma, at least, doesn’t seem quite so tractable as Fanny Price does. Though she matures in the course of the novel, it is not solely because of Mr. Knightley’s influence, but also a result of her seeing her own actions in a different light. Again, this is not a novel that I return to often, but it has grown a bit on me during the years.