Sunday, 27 March 2011

Emma. By Jane Austen


Jane Austen

First published 1816. I read the Penguin Popular Classics edition.

The story of Emma Woodhouse, a somewhat arrogant, beautiful girl, who tries to patronize  another young, pretty, not-so-well-off orphan girl in the neighbourhood, whom she takes a fancy to. She tries to make a match for her with another acquaintance of hers, disdaining the farmer suitor who first proposes to the orphan friend. After much to-ing and fro-ing, with parties being thrown, and balls being danced and visits being arranged, and marriages being made, things are finally sorted out and each of the principals finds his or her appropriate match. Emma herself marries the man who's obviously meant for her from the beginning, and who  is treated throughout the book as setting a kind of the standard of sensible conduct, against which the behaviour of the others is measured (and mostly found wanting!). The story is not much, actually not even as much as any Dickens novel (which were written only a little later), but the writing is delicious. The characters are all sketched very well, in 'full 3D', rounded and fully believable, mostly likeable, with one or two to despise. The conversation is witty, especially that of Emma, and also that of the hero. A nice read, if slow.  Of course, the attitudes and social arrangements are those of the early 19th century, not generally acceptable today (though still found extensively, even in my own experience - and I don't mean just caste, but 'class' and 'status' as well, whatever those mean!). 

Enquiry. By Dick Francis


Dick Francis

Published in 1969 by Fawcett Crest

A jockey and his trainer are accused of fraud, of throwing a race deliberately. He is barred from racing, but investigates, and after some violence, clears his name. Some mystery about who set him up, but not edge-of-the-seat stuff. Maybe I'm just growing too old and cynical for this sort of book. For example, I kept thinking throughout 'Do you mean to say that horse racing has ethics and honesty? Since the whole point and excitement about most of horse racing is the betting anyway, isn't that like saying smuggling or counterfeiting (or T20 cricket!) is ethical and honest?'. I think I should stop reading Dick Francis.