Book Review: The Annotated Emma by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard

Title: The Annotated Emma
Author: Jane Austen and David M. Shapard
Genre: Classic fiction
Publisher: Anchor
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

Publisher’s blurb: From the editor of the popular Annotated Pride and Prejudice comes an annotated edition of Jane Austen’s Emma that makes her beloved tale of an endearingly inept matchmaker an even more satisfying read. Here is the complete text of the novel with more than 2,200 annotations on facing pages, including:

-Explanations of historical context
-Citations from Austen’s life, letters, and other writings
-Definitions and clarifications
-Literary comments and analysis
-Maps of places in the novel
-An introduction, bibliography, and detailed chronology of events
-Nearly 200 informative illustrations

Filled with fascinating information about everything from the social status of spinsters and illegitimate children to the shopping habits of fashionable ladies to English attitudes toward gypsies, David M. Shapard’s Annotated Emma brings Austen’s world into richer focus.

I have been enjoying my rereads of Austen this year, and the enjoyment has been multiplied by the fact that I’m reading David Shapard’s annotated editions. Reading these books is like having all the information in an encycopledia of the time put right into the text. The best thing is that the notes are on each facing page – no paging forward and backward looking for footnotes.

Because I’ve read so much literature of this time period, many of the definitions and historical notes contain information I’m already aware of. But this book has so much more than historical notes and notes on word usage – there are quotes from Austen herself that lend insight into the text, maps and drawings of the places mentioned in the book, and a ton of illustrations.

The illustrations were my favorite part of the book. Shapard has included drawings of clothing of the time, the various carriages and carts used for transportation, pieces of period furniture, and drawings of daily farm and village life. I wish I could show you examples, but if you go to the book’s page on Random House, you can browse inside the pages and see for yourself.

Some of Shapard’s notes do include spoilers, but he has clearly marked them to warn anyone who is coming to the work for the first time. This is definitely the way to read Austen, and I am excited to have Shapard’s Annotated Sense and Sensibility waiting on my bookshelf.

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18 Responses to Book Review: The Annotated Emma by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard

  1. Ann Holt
    Twitter: mordyth
    says:

    If I don’t stop reading your emails, my list of ‘just have to read’ books will overpower me. Would you believe I have never read Jane Austen? But I love the idea of the annotated versions and can’t wait to get my hands on the Annotated Emma. Thank you!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ann – you’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it. I read Shapard’s annotated edition of Persuasion earlier this year, and it was wonderful, too. Persuasion is actually my favorite Austen, but I love them all, with the exception of Northanger Abbey, which I thought was okay.

  2. Arti
    Twitter: Arti_Ripples
    says:

    When I reread Austen, I’ll definitely use Shapard’s books. They’re rich, worthy add-ons to Austen’s works. Thanks for the informative review. Has he written an annotated version for all the six novels?

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Arti – not yet, but so far he has done Persuasion, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. 🙂

  3. I’ll be reading Emma for the first time very soon. It’s the last of Austen’s novels for me, so it’s bittersweet. I don’t have the annotated edition, but the one I have for P&P is delightful.

  4. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I think I would enjoy these too – it wouldn’t take me so long to figure things out as I was reading the book.

  5. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I’ve never read Emma…only Persuasion and P&P. But Emma is on my list and I would LOVE to read the annotated version! It would be like time travel!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – it is – I love the pictures, because it really helps me be able to envision things in my mind as I read.

  6. Patti Smith
    Twitter: PattiRSmith
    says:

    I must have this. I own the annotated P/P and need to read it as well!

  7. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12
    says:

    I’ve read all of Austen’s novels, but never an annotated version. I’ve read supplemental material and books about that era, but I wonder how reading an annotated version would affect the flow of the story. I’ll have to try it out!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Melissa – it is a different reading experience than reading straight through. I found that instead of looking at every note when it came up, I would read several pages until I reached a natural stopping place, and then go back and read the related notes.

  8. Michelle says:

    I loved annotated versions of favorite classics! While Emma is not my favorite Austen novel, the illustrations sound amazing. Not having to look up the period dresses, modes of transportation and every other detail that makes Austen so much fun would be a perfect enhancement!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Michelle – it really does enhance the reading experience – I loved it. 🙂

  9. Kathleen says:

    Having the annotations at hand seems a very nice solution for me. I’m sure it will take me twice as long to read the book in this case but I would enjoy all of the references.