Monday 26 October 2009

Loving Emma

Emma is my favourite Jane Austen novel by far. I love everything about it, I love the language, I love the humour, the wit, the characters; I love Emma herself for all of her conceit and all of her fallibilities. I think I understand Emma, for I almost fell into the same trap myself once, believing that one understands other people and their emotions, believing that they can somehow be managed to a desired set of ends.

I enjoyed the movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow, who was quite convincing in the lead. So I was really looking forward to the new BBC four-apart adaptation by Sandy Welch, which finished last Sunday evening. Yes, it was a free adaptation and, yes, some of the nuances of Austen’s book have been lost and the characters ‘liberalised’ in point of deportment and expression but I really loved it, loved the whole thing, not in the least put off by the curmudgeonly review in The Daily Telegraph. The soufflĂ© rose and rose!

The cast were super. I particularly liked Michael Gambon as the fussy and hypochondriac Mr Woodhouse, and Jonny Lee Miller was a lovely and sexy-and scolding!-Mr Knightly, but Romola Gari was Emma, she was Emma as I see her; impish, mischievous, expressive, thoughtful, self-assured and scheming. In her face, her eyes alone she conveyed so much liveliness; she deserves recognition for that if nothing besides. I suppose the purist will be horrified, perhaps preferring a ‘stiffer’, less modern version, but not I. Great books and great characters always adjust to the times. I feel sure Jane would have loved this Emma for a modern age.

The production values, the period settings and the costumes were all wonderful; the whole thing was simply splendid. There will be such a gap in my Sunday evenings now. What shall I do? Yes, I know; I’ll read Emma yet again. On second thoughts, I might just go look for a Harriet Smith. :-))


  1. Can't get British TV here yet form the iPlayer thingy. Radio no problem. Eventually we will be able to I think and that will be fun. A good British costume drama; nothing like it.

  2. Romola Garai is a wonderfully skilled actress. I was first captivated by her splendidly honed role in Vanity Fair. All film adaptations can fall into the category of 'loosely based.' Such criticisms are only valid if an adaptation criminally deviates without having offered an pology for it. What is important is that the essence/spirit is kept intact and in this case, I can echo most confidentally your opinion that it was. A really great adaptation of an awesome novel.