Emma by Jane Austen
What is there to say about Emma that cannot be said about Pride and Prejudice? Yes, Jane Austen continues to show her mastery of witty dialogue. For that reason alone, the book may be worth a read. However, as a whole, the book comes across as tone deaf and elitist in today's society. My biggest quarrel with Jane Austen's work is that it doesn't go far enough condemning the British aristocracy for its excess and profligacy. Jane Austen spends a lot of time describing the tension between the wealthy and super wealthy, but almost no time on the lower classes. After reading her novels, the modern reader comes away thinking that the working class was just happy to oblige and upper classes and wonders whether the servant class had lives of their own at all.
I don't mean to be too hard on Emma. Perhaps, reading Emma so soon after Pride and Prejudice has prejudiced me against a book that seems the same all but in name. Additionally, it could very well be true that Jane Austen had no way of knowing what the working class people of England were really like, seeing as she grew up in an upper class family and it would have been unseemly for someone of her birth to make too deep a connection with someone born in the lower classes. However, that doesn't change the fact that it is hard to sympathize with her character's romances when some of the people living in the same town were likely to be starving or dying of tuberculosis. In conclusion, read it for the witty dialogue, but not for the social commentary.