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 lies 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”? Continue reading

Adieu Miss Woodhouse – Emma (2009) concludes on Masterpiece Classic

Image from Emma Episode 3: Box Hill picnic x 450 © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

Episode three of Emma (2009) aired tonight on Masterpiece Classic PBS. I am feeling more than a bit of melancholia setting in!

Spoilers ahead! 

Despite being a “troublesome creature” throughout most of the story, Emma does redeem herself by admitting her misconceptions and blunders. How could we not forgive, admire and love her? After all, Mr. Knightley does and everyone knows he is the voice of reason throughout the story! You can read my original thoughts on this new adaption of Jane Austen’s classic novel at my review, Miss Woodhouse – a nonsensical girl.

Austen has taken us on a great ride from revulsion to delight with her exasperatingly heroine Emma Woodhouse. Screenwriter Sandy Welch may not have included much of Austen’s original language in this new adaptation, but the story and the Austen magic remained. By the third episode our Miss Woodhouse had matured from spoiled and willful to contrite and accepting. What a relief. Along the way, I came to respect Romola Garai’s interpretation of Emma, I suspect because her delivery improved and I just adore Austen’s story. Jonny Lee Miller was not my first choice as Mr. Knightley and I had my doubts, but he shined in the proposal scene and everyone knows that’s what really matters. *wink* I will conclude with one of the most joyful quotes from the novel that unfortunately was not included in this adaptation – but should have been.

“It is such a happiness when good people get together — and they always do.” Miss Bates Ch 21 

Adieu Miss Woodhouse, it was sorely lacking in Austen’s language, but I got over it.

Further Reading:

Images courtesy © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

Emma (2009) concludes tomorrow night on Masterpiece Classic

Image from Emma 2009: Emma and Frank © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

Don’t miss the last episode of Emma (2009) staring Romola Garai on Masterpiece Classic PBS Sunday, February 7th from 9-10 PM. (check your local listing).

In this final installment of the three part mini-series, we travel to Box Hill for the famous picnic and witness more than a bit of bad behavior by our heroine Miss Woodhouse. Later, shocking news angers the Highbury community and Emma has a revelation about her future – but it might all be too late!

Also, be sure to join the bi-coastal Twitter party, Sunday February 7th, 2010 9-10PM eastern and pacific coast times.

Image courtesy © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

Deconstructing Miss Emma Woodhouse

Image from Emma (2009): Emma Woodhouse © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

The second episode of the new adaptation Emma (2009) aired last night on Masterpiece Classic. You can read my review of Emma and watch previous episodes until March 9th, 2010 at the Masterpiece website. As we move further into the story of Highbury’s misapplying matchmaker, I thought it would be interesting to delve into her character in the novel a bit deeper and explore the different Emma’s portrayed in the film and television adaptations.

Since it’s publication in 1815, Jane Austen’s Emma has had its share of advocates and adversaries. 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. Its heroine, the privileged, self-conceited and spoiled Emma Woodhouse may not be as appealing as Austen’s sparkling and clever heroine Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, but her character offers the reader a harder wrought and more rewarding dénouement. Like Miss Woodhouse who believes that she knows better than anyone else what is best for them, we must trust Jane Austen’s instincts for what she believes is the best subject and narrative style. Since many scholars, critics, and readers attribute Emma as a masterpiece of world literature, I think Jane Austen has the final laugh on her early critics. Emma may be about nothing and lack romance, but what a pleasure it is to be so resplendently deficient. Continue reading

Emma (2009) on Masterpiece Classic – Miss Woodhouse, a Nonsensical Girl!

Image from Emma 2009: Emma and Frank at The Crown Inn dance © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Sage advice from the philosophizing Forrest Gump. The same can be said of Jane Austen adaptations. Last night’s US premiere of screenwriter Sandy Welch’s newly retooled Emma on Masterpiece Classic had its mix of nuts, chews, and soft centers. Most viewers will be tempted to consume it quickly like the beautifully crafted confection that it is. I prefer to take a small bite first to see what I’m getting.

Emma may very well be the last Jane Austen adaptation (or any other bonnet drama) that we see on television for quite some time. The BBC is feigning Austen fatigue after years of milking the almighty cash cow. Since 2005 we have been treated to a new major movie or television production of each of Jane Austen’s six major novels. Emma (2009) completes the set. Time to bring on the reality television and grittier fare. So speaketh Auntie Beeb. Because of their partnership with the BBC, Masterpiece PBS is hooked into their decisions too, though I suspect with more regret than they will admit since Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton remarked last week “We are not stupid: Jane Austen is catnip to our audience.”

This new Emma has almost everything that this bonnet drama geek could hope for in an Austen film adaptation: four hours to develop the story to its fullest, beautiful, beautiful production values, a seasoned and award-winning screenwriter and a cast dappled with some of Britain’s finest veteran actors and up and coming stars. What’s not to like? How could it go wrong? Let me extol upon its many charms and a few foibles. Continue reading

Join the Emma Twitter Party on Sunday hosted by PBS Masterpiece Classic

Image from Emma 2009: PBS Emma Tweet Party © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE“Why not seize the pleasure at once?” 

Emma (2009), the new mini-series staring Romola Garai as the clever, handsome but misguided Miss Emma Woodhouse premieres on Sunday January 24th on Masterpiece Classic.

Join me as co-host with Vic of Jane Austen’s World, Kali of Emma Adaption Pages, Austen enthusiasts, bonnet drama lovers and the good folks at Materpiece PBS for a red carpet premiere Tweet party during the broadcast starting at 9:00 to 11:00 pm ET on Twitter or Tweetgrid.

Comment on the production, ask questions and join in the celebration by using hashtag #emma_pbs.

Follow this link to the Emma Tweet Party on TweetGrid

For additional information, visit the official Emma Tweet Party page at the Masterpiece Classic website

Remember to use hashtag #emma_pbs in your posts to be included in the festivities

Twitter accounts for co-hosts & PBS

Laurel Ann tweets as Austenprose
Vic tweets as janeaustenworld
Kali tweets as magicskyway
PBS tweets as PBS
Masterpiece Classic tweets as masterpiecepbs

Image courtesy © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

Emma (2009) staring Romola Garai premieres on Masterpiece Classic next Sunday

Image from Emma 2009: Romola Garai as Miss Emma Woodhouse © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

US bonnet drama lovers are in for a treat when Emma (2009) premiers on Masterpiece Classic next Sunday January 24th, 2010 on PBS. This is the first of three episodes of the new adaptation by BAFTA award winning screenwriter Sandy Welch (Our Mutual Friend, Jane Eyre, North And South). The esteemed cast is lead by Romola Garai (Atonement, Vanity Fair) as the clever, handsome and rich (but misguided) Miss Woodhouse, Michael Gambon (Cranford, Brideshead Revisted) as her valetudinarian elderly father Mr. Woodhouse and Jonny Lee Miller (Byron, Eli Stone, Trainspotting) as Emma’s reproachful neighbor.

This highly anticipated new mini-series aired in the UK on the BBC  last September and will finally jump the pond and arrive in the colonies for our immediate consumption and deconstruction! To herald its charms it has a proven screenwriter, superior production values from the BBC/WGBH, an incredible cast, authentic locations, and beautiful costuming.

Emma (2009) is based on Jane Austen’s fourth novel of the same name published in 1815 and is the sixth film or television adaptation of what many deem her masterpiece of characterization and wit. You can read a full synopsis of the story and description of the characters at the Masterpiece website, as well as these incredible features:

Janeites will remember the two most recent adaptations of Emma in 1996 staring Kate Beckinsale and Gwyneth Paltrow in two entirely different interpretations of Austen’s misapplying matchmaker. It will be very interesting to add Romola Garai’s Miss Woodhouse to the list of actresses brave enough to take on a character that even Jane Austen joked was “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.”

Emma (2009) will be shown on three consecutive Sundays on January 24th, 31st and February 7th at 9:00pm (check local listings) with each episode viewable in streaming video on the Masterpiece website following each broadcast, January 25th – March 9th, 2010.

EMMA TWEET PARTY ON SUNDAY

“Why not seize the pleasure at once?” Please join the Masterpiece Classic red carpet Emma Tweet Party co-hosted by yours truly on January 24th, 2010 from 9:00-11:00 at Twitter. Don’t miss the real time chat and deconstruction of this very special Jane Austen mini-series.

Image courtesy © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE