Emma, by Jane Austen (Naxos AudioBooks) – A Review and Giveaway

Emma, Jane Austen’s fourth novel was published in 1815 and dedicated to the Prince Regent, later King George IV.  Austen privately abhorred the Regent for the treatment of his wife Princess Caroline and his dissipated lifestyle. In 1813 she wrote to her friend Martha Lloyd, “I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband.” She did however recognize the value of his name and agreed to the dedication. Upon publication Emma also had its own share of critics. What impressed early readers was not that it lacked energy and style, but that its story was dull and uneventful. Even Austen’s famous publisher John Murray thought it lacked “incident and romance” and Maria Edgeworth, a contemporary author so greatly admired by Austen that she sent her one of the twelve presentation copies allotted by her publisher, could not read past the first volume and thought “there was no story in it.” Ironically, what these two prominent and well read individuals attributed as a weakness is actually Emma’s greatest strength.

If one looks beyond the surface, Emma is an intricate story focused on the astute characterization and social reproof which Austen is famous for. Emma Woodhouse is a complex character that on first acquaintance is rather a pill. Austen gave herself a great challenge in creating “a heroine whom no one but myself will like.”  In contrast with her other heroines, Miss Woodhouse does not have any social or financial concerns and thus no compelling need to marry. Therein lives the rub. We have no sympathy for her whatsoever. She’s rich, she’s spoiled and she’s stuck up. Who indeed could possibly like such a “troublesome creature”? During the course of the novel we witness her exerting her superior notions of who is suitable for whom as she match makes for her friends with disastrous results. It is no wonder that Maria Edgeworth gave up reading Emma after the first volume. At that point we have met most of the characters in Emma’s insular world and are coming to fully understand her ignorance and misguided perceptions in relation to them. She is truly exasperating. Austen tests our endurance fully as the novel progresses and her heroine continues to make mistakes. It is a testament to her skill as a writer and deft comedian that she holds our fascination with the “busy nothings” of every-day country life in Highbury, a small village filled with endearingly flawed characters. The transformation of the heroine from spoiled and insufferable into a contrite, mature and likeable young lady that you want to root for, is nothing less than remarkable. It is truly a shame that Edgeworth could not recognize the genius of Austen’s sly sashay of characterization into a world that could be your own neighborhood. We can only account that, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” 

If you liked the new BBC/PBS miniseries Emma (2009), enjoy the original novel with all of Austen’s resplendent language in this expertly produced audio recording. Read by acclaimed British actress Juliet Stevenson, viewers of the 1996 movie adaptation of Emma will remember her superb portrayal of the vulgar a vacuous Mrs. Elton and know you are in for a treat. Adding equal measure of energy and humor to each of the characters, Stevenson’s perfect blending of a classic novel and a sensitive interpretation enhanced my enjoyment greatly. Pop this one into your CD player or iPod during your commute to work. I highly recommend it. “It is such a happiness when good people get together — and they always do.” Ch 21

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Emma, by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson
Naxos AudioBooks (2007)
Unabridged (13) CD’s, 16h 40m
ISBN: 978-9626343944

GIVEAWAY CONTEST

Enter a chance to win one copy of a Naxos AudioBooks recording of Jane Austen’s novel Emma by leaving a comment by midnight PST February 16th, 2010 stating who is your favorite character in the novel or movie adaptation of Emma. Winners will be announced on February 17th, 2010. Shipping to continental US addresses only. Good luck!

UPDATE 02/17/10: The contest has concluded. The winner was announced. Follow this link to discover if it was YOU!

Share

40 thoughts on “Emma, by Jane Austen (Naxos AudioBooks) – A Review and Giveaway

  1. My favorite character is Mr. Knightley. Throughout the book, he seems to be one of the few around Emma who can see through Mr. Elton and Frank Churchill’s. He’s also one of the few who can put Emma in her place without coddling.

    As for movie adaptions, Clueless will probably always be my favorite, but Romola Garai ‘s version is trying to unseat it. I’ve really enjoyed the series.

    Like

  2. I, too, love Mr. Knightley. Emma is the Austen novel whose adaptations I am least familiar with, but I did really enjoy the Romola Garai version. I especially loved the ending!

    Like

  3. This is a hard one, but, i thought i would give it a try. This is my first encounter with a Jane Austen novel (confession: i am thirty-three). I might as well have grown up under a rock, and, from there persued a career in medicine, sadly amazing literature was lost a long the way! My 90+ year old aunt recommended the PBS special to me, and, was appropriately horrified that i had never read Emma. How could i dissappoint her?!?! So i watched and am now in love with the story and can’t wait to finish Emma and read more (if only grad school would cooperate).

    I have to say, so far, my favorite character has actually been Harriet (of course i am not very far in to the novel, so, i reserve the right to re-think this one). While it is hard to resist choosing Mr. Knightley (how can you not love him in the novel or on screen), Harriet has been the one to make me pause and think. I can’t help but wonder if she doesn’t know, suspect, etc. more than she lets on. I am not sure if i like her because she is actually the “innocent” in what i have read so far, or, if it is because she has almost (but not quite) convinced me that she appears innocent in all of this.

    Like

    • LOL Claire! John Knightley is hilarious. In the scene at Randalls for the Christmas eve party he knows that Mr. Woodhouse is fretting over the snow and purposely proclaims it’s snowing it rile him!

      I love this quote by him.

      “Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.” John Knightley Ch 34

      Sublime!

      Like

  4. I love Mr. Knightly, but Miss Bates and Mrs. Weston are also favorites, especially after the most recent movie adaptation.

    Like

  5. How fortuitous! I just downloaded this audiobook to my iPod last week, LA! I love Juliet Stevenson, so I know I’m in for a great treat. 
    as

    As to my favorite character, it would have to be Emma… you nonsensical girl.  As to adaptation, Northam and Miller’s portrayal of Mr Knightley is still fighting it out for top position. 

    Like

  6. Mr. Knightley is definitely my favorite character. He’s just what a man ought to be, and I love everything about him. I think he’d be a much a better boyfriend than Mr. Darcy. My friend and I always used to say we were looking for our own “Mr. Knightley.”

    Like

  7. After watching the most recent adaptation I have to say Mr. Knightley. He can come sit by my fire any time he pleases.

    Like

  8. Wow, such a treat of a giveaway and I lurve Juliet’s voice! Oh Lord please let this one be me!!!!

    My favorite character is George, aka Mr. Knightley!! He reminds me of Henry Tilney in N A novel too. Mr. K is just mature enough to wait for Emma to come into her own feelings while guiding her into being a woman. I swoon & sigh, to read such devotionif his character.

    Like

    • Hi Janeen, hmm? Yes Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney are similar in that they both are more experienced with the world than the heroine and offer advice and corrections. Henry is just more charming about it.

      Thanks for visiting. Hope you win. LA

      Like

  9. In the recent miniseries version of Emma, Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton was my favorite. Much more interesting than boring Mr. Knightly. He’s just what Highbury needs to wake it up a bit. And I loved his hair.

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with Mr. Knightly. I find it creepy he’s almost 20 years older than Emma and watched her grow up, just waiting for her to get old enough to marry. The fact that his younger brother is married to her older sister adds to my unease.

    Like

  10. My favorite character is Jane Fairfax. She is clearly an excellent, talented young woman. She must have suffered so watching Frank Churchill flirt with Emma. I think she is charming and her secret is the best surprise in the novel.

    Like

    • Lynnae – I too admire Jane and think her quite excellent. Her biggest flaw is over-looking Frank’s flaws. How she could watch him flirt outrageously with Emma and still want him is unforgiveable to today’s relationship standards. In 1815, a women did not really have a choice. Jane even more so because of her financial dire situation. I do not imagine her made her very happy in marriage and envision him engaging in daliances.

      Thanks for your comments. LA

      Like

  11. My favorite character is Emma. I love how the begining of the novel gives you this smart (although spoiled) child who has all this social power, and then you get to experience her struggle to become an adult worthy of that power. I think he recent mini-series did a nice job bringing some of this out She’s actually my third favorite Austen heroine (after Anne & Catherine).

    Like

  12. I adore Juliet Stevenson and I loved her Mrs. Elton–and pretty much anything else she’s ever done; “book” Emma is my favorite character and the dog sitting by my feet is named after her (and she has as high opinion of herself as does Miss Woodhouse)!

    Like

  13. I like Mrs. Taylor and both of the Mr. Knightleys. I also like Mr. Woodhouse because even though he is foolish and overprotective, he loves his daughters dearly. I enjoyed this miniseries adaptation of Emma more than the movie. This is the first of the PBS Austen adaptations I have gotten to watch, and I am looking forward to the next two weeks. I enjoy Jane Austen’s work so much!

    Like

  14. I adore Mr. Knightley, and I’ve especially loved Jonny Lee Miller’s take on the character. Just the right balance of frustration and romantic angst! :)

    Like

  15. I have lately become hooked on listening to audiobooks. I love Emilia Fox’s reading of Pride and Prejudice. Juliet Stevenson is amazing and I’ve listened to her reading of Persuasion and I love it! I’m sure her Emma is just as wonderful.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but I adore Mr. Knightley (Northam or JLM). I also love Mrs. Weston, she is such a humble and steadfast friend to Emma. I have loved her character in each adaptation.

    Like

  16. I really like all of the characters in Emma—they are each delightful in their own way—however, I have a particular fondness for Mr. John Knightley. He entertains me greatly and has some of my favorite speeches.

    “A man,” said he, “must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. …” &c. &c.

    Like

  17. The 2009 Emma adaptation is my favorite version. (It comes in second after the ’95 Pride and Prejudice adaptation) I believe that the cast was chosen well. I will watch this version again and again! Bravo Sandy Welsh!!

    Like

  18. Oooh, I’d love to listen to this audiobook! My favorite character is Mr. Knightley, but in the lastest adapatation I found Rupert Evans’ Frank Churchill such a perfect scoundrel, I almost couldn’t resist him!

    Like

  19. I like Miss Bates. What a busy body. Oddly enough I relate to her on basic level. Chatty, rambler but went she’s dissed by Emma, Bates is so hurt. However, she means well.

    Like

  20. I would have to say just as almost everyone else…Mr Knightley…sigh…but I do like Mr. Woodhouse and his cake! In the last adaptation I must say Mr. Elton did delight me in his wickedness as well! Thanks for the wonderful giveaway!

    Like

  21. Emma found her life to be oher than what she planned as do we all. Too bad that none of us know what really good people are together,even if most of them are not.

    Like

  22. I love Miss Bates too! To me, the genius of Jane Austen is the way she introduces personality and character weakness into all of her creations. I see myself in everybody, but no one quite so much as Miss Bates. God bless her chatty little heart!

    Like

  23. Way too hard to decide!! More than any other Jane Austen novel, I love every single character in Emma. They all are quirky, hilarious, and unique. If I had to pick one, it would have to be Mr. Knightley/

    Thank you for the wonderful opportunity, Laurel Ann!

    Like

  24. Pingback: Winner Announced in the Emma (Naxos AudioBooks) Giveaway « Austenprose

  25. Pingback: Join the 2010 Jane Austen Reading Challenge « Austenprose

  26. Pingback: Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

Comments are closed.