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The Annotated Emma Paperback – March 20, 2012
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About the Author
Jane Austen (1775–1817) was born in Hampshire, England, where she spent most of her life. Though she received little recognition in her lifetime, she came to be regarded as one of the great masters of the English novel.
David M. Shapard is the author of The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, The Annotated Persuasion, The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, The Annotated Emma, The Annotated Northanger Abbey, and The Annotated Mansfield Park. He graduated with a Ph.D. in European History from the University of California at Berkeley; his specialty was the eighteenth century. Since then he has taught at several colleges. He lives in upstate New York.
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My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of Jane Austen. This is the third time I've read this novel, and I've seen all the movie renditions multiple times. I love watching Emma grow in wisdom throughout the story. And her romance is, in my opinion, the sweetest of those written by Austen. But I recognize that this is a difficult book for many people to get into because of Emma's painful flaws and poor choices. Another reason that Emma is less appealing to some readers is because the narrator's perspective is so unique. The POV focuses almost entirely on Emma's perception of the world, to the point where it is easy to be mislead about what is really occurring since we are only seeing what Emma sees. Emma, especially at the beginning of the novel, tends to be very self-centered and aloof, and so is the narration of the novel. However, even though this POV makes the story harder to get into than the other Austen novels, this is Austen's most appealing work for character study.
The annotations of this book are lengthy and detailed. Many interesting images and comments are included so that we can visualize antique customs, fashions, and furniture that Austen's readers would take for granted. That aspect of the annotations was fantastic. The annotations also included a lot of character analysis commentary, such as "Emma thinks such-and-such is happening, which shows you how much she lacks self-awareness at this stage." These annotations included a lot of spoilers (the reader is warned which annotations include spoilers, but sometimes these warnings were dropped out of the ebook version - so caution should be practiced if you're reading the book for the first time and you have ebook format). These character analysis annotations were sometimes interesting, but mostly they told me things I'd already knew - either because I was familiar with the story or because I am sensitive to Austen's nuances. Therefore, I think this annotated version is for you if 1)You are interested in having some historical perspective, 2)You are reading the book for the first time and don't mind spoilers, 3)You're re-reading the book, but don't remember the details and nuances, and/or 4)You just love reading annotations. In other words, I am glad that I read this one book from The Annotated Austen series, because I enjoyed the historical perspective notes, but I probably will not pick up any of the others because I think I got the main idea now.
So: now I doubt Every. Single. Note. Even the ones I know are correct. Sloppy scholarship? Careless editing? Dunno. Perhaps I caught the single error in the whole volume. However, on the whole, I can recommend this with the same enthusiasm I'd give to bowl of gruel.
The left hand pages of the book contain the original story and the right hand pages contain the annotated notes. As with the other titles in this series, the notes are exceptionally well researched and help the reader grasp the intricate details that Austen included.