There is something about reading Jane Austen novels that makes my heart so incredibly happy and full. She never fails to cheer me up with her wit and depth.
I can only wish that there was more to read by her than the six full novels she left behind (I do still have all the smaller and unfinished pieces left to go).
I think the hardest thing about completing an Austen novel is trying to figure out where you place it in line with your other favorite Austen novels. I mean, after all, they are all excellent in their own way. And after I read one, I just cherish it so much more than "those others" I haven't read as recently.
Anyway, on to Emma. The first time I read it, I really didn't see the love connection between Emma and Mr. Knightley. Perhaps it is because I have learned to concentrate a little more on details and underlying themes (you know, that English degree and all). Now, on my third reread, I got it and I am blaming it on the fact that I am a little more experienced in the ways of love nowadays after having to live with a boy and pick up after his messes (really, they should tell you that before you say "I do").
In any case, this time around I still loved Emma just as much as that first time. Again, I was reminded about how love grows and changes, as does our perception of what love is. I can remember being in 7th grade and being "in love" with this boy who absolutely no idea who I was. But I was convinced we were going to get married and live happily ever after. *sigh* We all know that it doesn't work that way, and to be honest, while I remember feeling this way about that boy, I don't remember his name. True love, you know?
But in Emma, Emma Woodhouse does seem to know what love is. She cherishes the solid examples she sees in her own life, but doesn't want it for herself. It is only once she understands what that kind of love does for the people around her that she seems to get it and want it. It makes me a little sad that she waited so long to cave in.
But Emma is about more than that. It is also about overcoming your preferences and beliefs about things you believe you know all about. Emma certainly changes her tune after the debacle with Mr. Elton. She figures out what she did wrong and seems to learn from it. She also gets stung with the whole situation surrounding Frank.
So when she finally realizes just how she feels about Mr. Knightley, she comes to term with her own definition of love and what she really needs.
This is definitely one of my favorite Austen novels, but since I love them all, I have to place this one third (behind Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice). I think one of the reasons I do love this lies in the character traits of Miss Bates. I adore Miss Bates and her silly attitude. She cracked me up every time she shows up in the novel. In terms of secondary Austen characters, she comes in a very close second behind Mr. Collins (because really, he's hilarious).
If you haven't given Emma a try recently, I urge you to. Read deeper than the silly high school nature of Emma Woodhouse and you'll find a far deeper novel. I know I did.