We all know this, we always hear it: don’t judge or dismiss a book (or a movie, or a tv show, or a type of food) without even trying it, because you might be missing out on a future favorite.
The subject of today’s blog was my last experience in proving the saying right.
Up until last summer, I had absolutely no interest in reading Emma. What I knew of the book was that Clueless served as a modern adaptation of it, and that Jane Austen had described Emma as “a heroine whom no-one but myself could like”. While I enjoyed Clueless when I watched it, it is not and has never been a cult movie for me. So read the other Jane Austen novels (the complete ones, minus Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan) and figured that was well enough for me.
And it might have been, but in August, Bernie Sue and the team behind the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (a modern, vlog adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) and Welcome to Sanditon (a retelling of Sanditon starring Gigi Darcy of the LBD) announced their next project: Emma Approved. You’ll never guess which book it tackles.
Because I made a vow to myself to read the book before I watch an adaptation, whenever I can, and because I loved the LBD and Welcome to Sanditon so much and wanted to support the creators in their new endeavor, I read Emma. My expectations were pretty low, so it would have been hard not to meet them, and indeed, the book did meet my expectations, and even exceeded them, thanks to the character of Jane Fairfax and her secret romance with Frank Churchill. But even then, I figured: “okay, this was all right, thank God for Jane Fairfax,” and I was all ready to move on.
Only, I wanted to see more of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. I started scouring the Internet for fan-fiction of these two. I found some, but I also found some distressing blog entries and comments. Some people were arguing that Frank Churchill was the villain of Emma, that he was no better then a Willoughby or a Wickham. “That can’t be right!” I thought. “Why are those people wishing a Willoughby/Wickham on my Jane Fairfax? Did I read the book wrong? Did I miss something?”
So I went back and read again, and I discovered the genius of Emma as a novel. Jane Austen may, arguably, have reached her peak with this novel. I’ve heard Emma described as a detective story, and that is exactly what it is. It works in the way of the best detective novels, with little clues carefully planted throughout the text for the reader to pick up and pick apart, with something new to be discovered with every re-read. I should know, I’ve re-read the whole book at least 6 times, and various parts of it, especially volumes 2 and 3, maybe twice that.
So the next time someone recommends a book and I hesitate, I hope I’ll remember Emma, and give it a go. And if there’s anyone out there who wants to argue with me about Frank Churchill being the villain of Emma, I say Pull out your book and I’ll pull out mine; we’re going to have a chat. Also, to the team of Emma Approved, you have just begun the Volume 2 arc, and we know what that means. I hope you do this story more justice then Hollywood, or the BBC, have ever done. I am worried, but I have faith in you.