Emma wants to see her better informed; it will be an inducement to her to read more herself. They will read together. She means it, I know.” Mrs. Weston, Emma, Chapter 5
I hope that you all enjoyed Emma, staring Kate Beckinsale, Sunday on PBS. This movie version is my favorite of the Emma adaptations. The screenwriter Andrew Davies made some changes from the novel, and I do not agree with all of them, but I do like how he and director Diarmud Laurence brought in the Regency environment and grounded the film with glimpses of the working community. Three scenes come to mind that exemplify this; Mr. Woodhouse, the leading citizen of Highbury, showing concern for the laborers by waving at them from his carriage, the gaggle of giggling school girls in church reminds us of the rest of the families in the community, and the complete invention of the harvest festival showing the differences between the upper and lower classes of the Highbury agricultural community, and the gracious appreciation displayed by their landlord and master, Mr. Knightley.
My only regrets about this version of Emma is that it lacked the humor of the novel and the other 1996 film of Emma, staring Gwyneth Paltrow, and that it was not longer in length. One can always wish that film producers would aspire to adapt the entire novel, but one understands the restrictions of the cinematic medium. Being a greedy sort myself, I crave all of Jane Austen’s lovely words, characters and plot in toto!
If this adaptation peaked your curiosity, but you still feel a bit clueless about Emma, I heartily encourage you to read the novel. There are excellent versions in print and online. Like Emma, I am an imaginist and am partial to artistic creativity, prefering a good illustrated edition to visualize the story. You might also be interested in many of the sequels and pastiches about, and here are a few suggestions.
Jane Fairfax: Jane Austen’s Emma through Another’s Eyes, by Joan Aiken, St. Martins Press (1997). Emma Woodhouse feels that Jane Fairfax is too reserved, but she may indeed be the only young lady in Highbury that Emma truly envies. Read about Jane Fairfax’s back story as it is revealed through Aiken’s skilled and accomplished parallel story to Austen’s Emma. Aiken’s style is easy and affable; – both similar and respectful to Jane Austen, and she does Fairfax due justice. ISBN: 9780312157074 Read a preview here.
Mr. Knightley’s Diary: A Novel, by Amanda Grange, The Berkley Publishing Group, (2007). Relive Jane Austen’s Emma – from Mr. Knightley’s point of view. At times, I wish that Mr. Knightley had some of Emma’s energy and imagination, but you know they say that opposites attract, and in this case it is true. This perspective of a gentleman in his late thirties whose chief interests are his estates and the well being of the Highbury community reveals why Knightley is still a bachelor, and make it all the more interesting to see his transformation from friendly neighbor into Emma’s love. ISBN: 9780425217719 Read a review from Ms. Place of Jane Austen Today here.
Lovers’ Perjuries: Or, The Clandestine Courtship Of Jane Fairfax And Frank Churchill, by Joan Ellen Delman, self published, (2007) Description (from the author) Have you ever wondered about the hidden romance contained within Jane Austen’s Emma? Written with great fidelity to the original, Lovers’ Perjuries fills in all the details of scenes only hinted at in Emma. It also introduces new characters in a substantial subplot inspired by Persuasion, but featuring a lively heroine more reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet than Anne Elliot. ISBN: 9780615150055. Read an excerpt. Read a review by Mags of AustenBlog here.
Amanda, by Debra White Smith, Harvest House Publishers, (2006) Publishers description: Book #5 in White Smith’s Austen Series, is a delightful contemporary novel set in Australia that captures the wit and humor of Jane Austen’s Emma. Amanda is a bit bored-until she meets Haley and decides that she would be the perfect wife for the local pastor. Amanda’s plan is falling into place when she discovers that Haley is dating Roger…and Pastor Eldridge is seeing someone else. Not to be thwarted, she steers Haley toward newcomer Frederick West. But when Haley is attracted to Nathaniel, why is Amanda’s heart suddenly anxious? ISBN: 9780736908757 Read a review by Erin Valentine of Novel Journey here.
Emma and Knightley: The Sequel to Jane Austen’s Emma, by Rachel Billington, SourceBooks (2008) Publishers description: After a year of marriage, Emma wants Knightley to stop treating her like a child. Knightley meanwhile wants his young bride to love him as a husband, not as the man she’s always looked up to. With tragedy in the offing, and events unfolding that include beloved characters from Jane Austen’ Emma, the couple must find their way to each other, and to perfect happiness. ISBN: 9781402212079 Read a review by Alison T. on AustenBlog here.
Mrs. Elton in America: The Complete Mrs. Elton, by Diana Birchall, Edgerton House Publishing (2004) This amusing and often hilarious volume includes the Mrs. Elton triology of three short novels; In Defense of Mrs. Elton, The Courtship of Mrs. Elton, and Mrs. Elton in America. Inspired by Jane Austen’s presumptive and officious character Mrs. Augusta Elton from her novel Emma. Laugh out loud, and then throw things if need be, because Mrs. Elton can just do that to you! It is amazing to think that Mrs. Elton’s ego could get much larger, but it does, and happily to our abject delight! ISBN: 9781905016013 Read an excerpt here.
Emma Adapted: Jane Austen’s Heroine from Book to Film, by Marc DiPaolo, Peter Lang Publishing (2007) Description from the publisher: This work of literary and film criticism examines all eight filmed adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma produced between 1948 and 1996 as vastly different interpretations of the source novel. Instead of condemning the movies and television specials as being “not as good as the book,” Marc DiPaolo considers how each adaptation might be understood as a valid “reading” of Austen’s text for Austen fans, scholars, and students alike. This book is a bit pricey at $67.95 online, and will be a good library request. ISBN: 9781433100000
Jane Austen’s Emma: A Casebook, edited by Fiona Stafford, Oxford University Press (2007) Interesting title, since it supports my theory that Emma is a mystery story disguised as a comic romance! Description from the publisher: The essays in this collection demonstrate the varied delights of reading Emma. The purpose of the collection is to introduce readers of Austen to new ways of interpreting her most substantial and rewarding novel. The collection opens with an introduction encouraging readers to re-read Emma, and to find its pleasures magnified by the critical interpretations and scholarship represented in this casebook. ISBN: 9780195175318
Clueless, the movie, director Amy Herkerling, Paramount Studios (1995) staring Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and Paul Rudd. Studio description: Loosely based on Jane Austen’s comedy of manners Emma, Clueless employs high school as a microcosm of a larger society; in this case, the sun-drenched paradise of conspicuous consumption known as Beverly Hills. Leading the pack as a rich, blonde cutie named Cher is Alicia Silverstone, in a career-making performance. With the help of her best friend, Dionne (Stacey Dash), well-meaning busybody Cher attempts to turn the school nerd, Tai (Brittany Murphy), into a teen queen — with unexpected results. Heckerling’s witty satire is dead-on, particularly in its rendering of the kids’ speech, an adolescent patois peppered with vacuous expressions like “as if!” and “whatever!” The beauty of Clueless is that, even as it makes fun of Cher’s relentless pursuit of popularity, it reveals an insightful, well-meaning individual beneath its heroine’s image-obsessed surface. Read a review by Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle here
So, read on Janeites!