Tony’s Review: Emma, Jane Austen



Emma Woodhouse is an early 19th century matchmaker. She’s also very rich (I saw a modern comparison put her wealth at $3 million or so in 21st century value), very bored and a snob – and a spoilt brat with a sense of superiority and inflated ego.

In the 19th century, the only way a woman could make her mark on the world was to marry; it was the only way she could secure her future and the future of her children. Marriage to the right man was all that mattered. And when I mean the right man, I mean a richer one. Everyone in 1815, it seems, was a social climber.

It’s background like this that you need to have before you go into this book, or Emma’s attempts at matchmaking and her refusal to marry won’t mean a thing. Once you get that idea of the social set, you’re on your way.

I had a hard time getting into this book. No fault of Austen; I was reading thirty minute snippets at lunchtime in a very noisy and distracting environment at work, and not much seemed to be happening – endless dinner parties or arrangements for dances or visits, mixed in with Emma’s hopeless attempts at matchmaking and discerning human behaviour.

I didn’t feel I was being fair to the book, so I started reading where it was quiet. Suddenly, something about Austen seemed to click. I practically heard it. Everything she was doing with the characters and situation started to make sense.

And let me tell you something: Austen is a bloody brilliant writer. Her characters are warm, witty, full of life and idiosyncrasies and funny. They are human and jump right off the page. Her small cast of characters and her observations of humanity are spot on.

Here’s an example. Mrs Bates: That woman. Will. Not. Shut. Up! And then Emma calls her on it, and realises how much it has hurt Mrs Bates. As a reader, I thought, I’m just as bad as Emma. I’m just as rude for not listening to her, or at least tolerating her. Brilliant.

Emma and her life herself take some dissection. Her social set consists of about ten people in one village, and she has no means of travel for long periods away from home. Her father worries a lot about everything, convinced some disease will strike her down if she does, and Emma respects that.

Her life is boredom, essentially. She matchmakes the people around her to stretch her strait-jacketed life and to alleviate the tedium – a tedium I felt as keenly as her as she arranged yet another trip to Randalls, or discussed the best place to hold a ball.

The only thing about Emma’s matchmaking…she’s not very good at it. No; she’s useless at it, completely misunderstanding everything that’s going through other people’s heads and hearts. Her ego and self-assurance won’t admit to any fault on her part though. She’s convinced she can’t be wrong.

She also refuses to mix with people below her, or those she considers ‘inferior’, like Jane Fairfax. She’s not an easy person to like. But despite that, you stick with her because you glimpse the good in her – in her respect for her father, her heeding advice for Mr Knightley, she shows the good woman she could be. And she does get better. A whole lot better, by the end of the book – she’s a woman transformed.

I enjoyed this a whole lot more than Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps now I’ve got the hang of Austen – she’s a writer having a blast and a whole lot of fun – I might go back and give it another try.

I certainly have a lot more time for her now.

Just Finished…Fall for You

Fall for You is a younger adult book, aimed at early teenage girls (I imagine). It is loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and you know what? I liked it! After reading plenty of ‘heavier’ books recently, I was in the mood for something quick, easy and light – and that’s exactly what I got.
The story is set predominantly in the grounds of the Jane Austen Academy, a prestigious boarding school, which up until recently had been solely for girls. In this it reminded me of a modernised version of the Mallory Towers or St Clares books by Enid Blyton, which I loved as a child: who didn’t want to play lacrosse and have jolly tea parties on the pavilion with the other gutsy girls who filled the dormitories of those books? Maybe just me then. But Lizzie – our leading lady surprisingly enough – certainly had shades of this about her.
As a character I found Lizzie irked me a little in the first couple of chapters – she was a tad on the bitchy side and I just thought she was mean with Anne and Emma particularly. However, I also get that this was part of her character establishment – after all she needed to be a little snooty and judgemental didn’t she. Thankfully, she mellows out pretty quickly and in with some slightly Louis Lane style tendencies sets off to investigate the mystery surrounding the new owners who are making so many changes to her beloved Academy.
This was a little jaunt down memory lane for me in terms of reading as I don’t tend to do ‘girlie’ romance stuff very often. But the younger girl inside me who devoured Sweet Valley High books (please don’t judge me too harshly!) in her early teens and wanted to go to boarding school, really enjoyed this lightly fluffy, fun take on Austen’s book. It is well-written, with good dialogue and enough variety in the supporting characters that they have depth and interest. The main characters are only ‘lite’ versions of the originals – Georgiana, Dante and Lizzie being the most like their counterparts – and the events of Fall for You only pick up some key scenes from Pride and Prejudice rather than being a complete re-telling, which I think worked well for the story. Nice reflections of the original book, without trying too hard to replicate and mimic, which I think would have felt very contrived.
Overall thoughts: if you like a little romance, fluff and fun, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this! 3.5* 

Fall for You by Cecilia Gray

The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is hot guys to flirt with. Please. They need to stay focused on something that lasts much longer: an acceptance letter from an Ivy.

But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And it’s about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down… 

* * *

To say Lizzie and Dante are polar opposites is the understatement of the century. He’s a snooty Exeter transfer with more money than Google. She’s a driven study-a-holic barely keeping up with tuition. It’s obvious that Dante thinks he’s way too good for Lizzie. And Lizzie knows Dante is a snob with a gift for pushing her buttons.

But things are changing fast this year at the Academy. And when Lizzie’s quest to stop those changes blows up in her face, taking her oldest friendship with it, she has nowhere else to turn but to Dante, with his killer blue eyes, his crazy-sexy smile, and his secrets… Secrets Lizzie can’t seem to leave alone, no matter how hard she tries…


 Gimme 10 – Mini-Interview

Please answer each question in 10 words or less – that’s what makes it tough but fun! 🙂

Where do you find your inspiration? In my own teen angst – and Jane Austen!

What is your favourite aspect of FALL FOR YOU? The dynamics – fights and friendships – between the girls.

Who is your favourite character from FALL FOR YOU and why? Emma. She’s as fabulous as I wish I had been.

What are you working on now? The series trailer – the production team and actors are amazing!

What do you love about most about writing? Escape!


About the Author: Cecilia Gray lives in Oakland where she reads, writes and breaks for food. She also pens her biographies in the third person. Like this. As if to trick you into thinking someone else wrote it because she is important. Alas, this is not the case.

Cecilia has been praised for “instilling a warmth and weight into her characters” (Romancing The Book Reviews) and her books have been praised for being “well-written, original, realistic and witty” (Quills & Zebras Reviews).

Several of her titles – including A Delightful Arrangement (The Gentlemen Next Door #1) and An Illicit Engagement (The Gentlemen Next Door #2) – have spent, in her view, a shocking amount of time on bestseller lists for romance, historical romance and regency romance in the US, UK, Italy and Spain.

She’s rather enamored of being contacted by readers and hopes you’ll oblige.


Want to know more? Check out the links!