This past month, one of our book choices was Emma by Jane Austen. I, as the instructor of book club, was the only person to actually read Emma. Once the students took a good look at the book, they realized it was longer than they'd anticipated, the language was challenging, and the action was a little slower than what they are accustomed to considering modern YA book choices.
Well. I read it none-the-less. My previous experiences with Jane Austen include only Pride and Prejudice so I had little experience with the author's works, and for about the first one hundred pages of Emma, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. The book focuses on Emma, of course, a young woman who fancies herself a match maker and tries to get her friends paired up. She is quite choosy, though, concerning who should be with whom and soon talks her friend Harriet into turning down a young man who really would have been a good choice.
And that was when the book became interesting. Yes, it took me about a hundred pages to get interested in Emma. But when I realized that she was actually not a reliable narrator, that her point of view was skewed, that the author was giving the reader all sorts of clues belying Emma's understanding of situations around her, that was when I began to see the power and strength of the writing. The book is not simply about wealthy people making sure they do not marry below themselves; it is about the reader understanding the truth of the situation when even the main character is unable to.
So. I had this discussion with myself and then went on to discuss our other book choice for book club. Hopefully some of the students will pick it up in the future.