Books, The Inner Landscape

Re-reading Emma

I guess you all know I love Jane Austen, don't you? Or would you have guessed if I hadn't told you? In times of great stress or emotional turmoil, I turn to Miss Austen and go away into another time and place. Grieving, I visit Pemberley and experience again the surprise when the family is at home. Lonely, I channel Anne Elliot and ponder the choices I made that led to this moment. Limited, I sit in the attic with Fanny Price and dream of riding with Edmund.

This winter, this never ending winter, I'm re-reading Emma, and I am realizing how one particular filmed version of the story sticks in my head. When I read of Miss Bates, I see and hear Prunella Scales at the picnic, registering puzzlement and hurt at Emma's insensitivity. Mr. Knightley will always be Mark Strong, with his slightly receding hairline, handing Emma in to the carriage and exclaiming, "That was badly done, Emma, badly done!"

I love the quiet social scenes, the visits from one household to another, the intensity of mild scenes in the Bates' little apartment, and I am always shocked at the sharpness of Knightley's reproofs and the way it resolves in the end despite Emma's complete inability to see things as they actually are.

That happens to me, too.


9 thoughts on “Re-reading Emma”

  1. Austen coincidence: I just started reading Colleen McCullogh’s *The Independence of Miss Mary Bates.* A very interesting twist on the many Pride and Prejudice sequels–not just in making Mary the heroine (when she gets free from taking care of their mom twenty years late) but in postulating that Darcy returned to being a pompous jerk and Lizzie ended up unhappy!

  2. I love Emma because Austen didn’t spare her heroine from the satire she so often used on other characters. But some of the things Emma does I find hard to forgive, so Knightly’s sharpness doesn’t bother me. It does creep me out a bit that he wants to marry someone he watched over as a baby. But I still love the book.
    Neither of the two versions I’ve seen felt just right to me.

  3. I read this book in college, but did not see either of the film versions. I did love the book then. It’s been a long time though. I’m going to have to peek at it again.

  4. I don’t know why, but I really loathe Emma – it’s the one Austen book I have never liked, and never even managed to finish. I did like the Keira Knightley/Prunella Scales version, but not the book. Yet I could re-read most of the others any day.
    And oh, I do think the Ang Lee “Sense and Sensibility” (the one where Hugh Grant played Edward Ferrars) is quite the best film ever!

  5. No, no, it wasn’t Keira Knightley, it was a very young and not so frighteningly thin Kate Beckinsale! I don’t know why I didn’t mention her. She’s the Emma I love. I also love Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility very, very much, but for me it’s all about Colonel Brandon, which is to say, Alan Rickman.

  6. Ruth, I would agree that’s creepy if it were today, but in that context, it must have been nothing odd. It’s not like a “Gigi” thing, where she has been groomed for him.

  7. I read Emma years ago and enjoyed it. I once heard a comment about Jane Austen, that she lived through all of the Napoleonic wars and never once mentioned them in her writings. (Unlike Tolstoy.) I think the strength of her writings are that she recognizes that for most of us our lives really revolve around our homes and a few key relationships. This is what matters, and she wrote about it with such grace and dignity.
    Peace to you today.

  8. Emma is my favorite JA. Hands down.
    And just to keep on disagreeing with Mrs. Redboots, I think that movie version of Sense and Sensibility is totally miscast from back to front. And I just love Emma Thompson. But Elinor is supposed to be something like 19 years old! And I love love yummy-love Alan Rickman. But Colonel Brandon is not supposed to be yummy. No. And don’t get me started on the mashed clown wig that Kate Winslet has on her head in that movie. Or Hugh Grant with his trademark blinking and stuttering. Every movie! Make him stop it!
    Otherwise, I have no strong feelings about it. 😉

  9. Kathy, you are making me laugh! Did you read the book again after seeing Alan Rickman reinvent Colonel Brandon? Because it’s a whole different book to me now. Seriously.

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