I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
Emma Woodhouse has just lost her former governess and favorite friend to marriage, and she is now a bored, lonely matchmaker looking for her next project. Harriet Smith is an agreeable, obedient acquaintance attending the local boarding school, with no known family or influences—the perfect pliable pupil. Emma tries to set her up for a man a bit out of reach, not realizing his own affections for her, despite the fact that she is determined not to be married. Then a handsome young man with a sharp tongue and wit comes to town and has Emma reconsidering her own resolve.
Emma is a funny, cute book about love, couples, matchmaking failures, and the interesting way life sometimes works out, with answers we seek being right next door. Perfect for fans of Jane Austen or other romantic books about couples.
Perfect for fans of
- Jane Austen
- Romantic dramas
- Romantic comedies
- English country life
- Mr. Woodhouse had a habit of “never being able to suppose anyone could feel differently from him.” How did this lead to complications sometimes for Emma, or anyone who wanted to do anything contrary to what he wished? Do you know anyone like this?
- Mr. Knightley “was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them.” Why do you think this was? What were they?
- Harriet was “only desiring to be guided by any one she looked up to.” Why was this a problem? Was Jane Fairfax the same when it came to Mrs. Elton?
- Emma thought that if a woman doubted whether or not she should marry a man, then it was a sign not to marry him. Did this turn out to be wise advice for Harriet regarding Mr. Martin? Do you agree or disagree with her advice unilaterally, or is it dependent on the case? What about her advice that she should marry a man whom she thought was “the most agreeable man you have ever been in company with, and if you prefer him to every other person”?
- How did Emma’s advice to Harriet about Mr. Martin’s proposal differ from Mr. Knightley’s advice to Mr. Martin? Why? Who was ultimately right and wisest?
- Til Emma chose to be her friend, Harriet’s mind “had no distaste for her own set, nor any ambition beyond it. She was as happy as possible...she had no superiority then.” Does that mean Emma was a bad friend to her? Is contentment one of the secrets to happiness? Might Harriet have been happier if Emma hadn’t interfered?
- What was the answer to Mr. Elton’s riddle, Charade? For whom was it really intended?
- Why is it that “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasure of the other”?, for example, the poor and the wealthy?
- What sorts of things made Frank’s aunt Mrs. Churchill so disagreeable (“expecting everything to be as she likes,” her temper, and her “illnesses for her convenience”)?
- How could Mrs. Churchill “make no sacrifice for the comfort of her husband, to whom she owes everything, while she exercises incessant caprice towards him, she should frequently be governed by the nephew, to whom she owes nothing at all”?
- Do you agree with Mr. Knightley that Frank Churchill has learnt to “be above his connections, and to care very little for anything above his own pleasure, from living with those who have always set him the example of it”?
- Why didn’t Emma like Jane Fairfax? What changed her mind?
- Is it accurate that as Frank Campbell said to Emma, “One cannot love a reserved person”, or as Emma replies, “not till the reserve ceases towards oneself”?
- Do you think that Emma’s “sensation of listlessness, weariness, stupidity, this disinclination to sit down and employ myself, this feeling of every thing’s being dull and insipid about the house” was as a result of true feelings of love for Franck Churchill? What made her think she was “not very much in love”?
- “They say everybody has been in love once in their lives, and I have been let off easy” Emma stated about Frank. Do you think at any point he loved her as well? Do you think this quote of hers is accurate in general? Why did she later say that “the fever was over”?
- Of whom in this novel is it true that “...it is not every man’s fate to marry the woman who loves him best”?
- What did Mr. Knightley mean by “No, Emma, I do not think the extent of my admiration for her will ever take me by surprise. I never had a thought of her in that way, I assure you”?
- With whom did Mr. Knightley choose to dance first? Why do you think that was?
- What items from Mr. Elton did Harriet keep? Why? Have you or anyone you’ve known kept mementos from a boyfriend or girlfriend?
- If you were asked by Emma to say “one thing very clever, or two things moderately clever, or three things dull,” what would you say? What awful thing did this game lead Emma to say about Miss Bates?
- Is it true what Frank said about the Eltons, that “It is only by seeing women in their own homes, among their own set, just as they always are, that you can form any just judgment. Short of that, it is all guess and luck...How many a man has committed himself on a short acquaintance, and rued it all the rest of his life”? Have you known anyone who jumped into a relationship or infatuation too soon and got hurt? Are exceptions to this rare?
- Which characters was it true of them that “...it can only be weak, irresolute characters, (whose happiness must always be at the mercy of chance,) who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience, an oppression for ever”? Is this a true statement in life, and have you known anyone who fit this description?
- What was Frank Churchill’s secret?
- What did Mrs. Elton have to say about Emma’s engagement? Why do you think she behaved this way?
The Recipe: Vanilla "Cake Mix" Cookies with Fresh Strawberries
Typical wedding cakes of the time, like what was served for Miss Taylor’s wedding to Mr. Weston, involved a LOT of butter, sugar, eggs, dried fruits, almonds or other nuts and spices, almost like an American pound cake.
Rout-cakes were often served at the Highbury card parties. These were a drop-biscuit, cake-like cookie, often made with currants or oranges.
At tea, biscuits or cookies were often served, as well as baked apples and tarts.
Strawberries were plucked by the picnic group at the Abbey, said to be “the best fruit in England—everybody’s favorite.”
To combine these elements, I’ve made an easy cake mix cookie with fresh strawberries.
Tips for recipe variations:
You can add any fresh or dried fruit you prefer, although any dried fruit or citrus shouldn’t need the added sugar.
For a lemon, lime, or orange variation, zest one whole fruit and add all the juice of the fruit to the mix.
For a hard fruit like apple or pear, cook down the fruit first in a microwave or pan on low heat with a bit of butter until soft.
For a stone fruit like peach or plum, be sure to peel the ripe fruit completely first before dicing.
If you want to make this with a chocolate cake mix, you could, or with a strawberry cake mix for double the strawberry flavor. A lemon cake mix would also go well with fresh strawberries.
Easy Vanilla Cake Mix Cookies with Fresh Strawberries
- 1 box vanilla or white cake mix
- 1/2 cup melted butter or oil (vegetable, canola, coconut, or a very light olive)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract, (optional, if using white cake)
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, diced tiny
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream together cake mix, melted butter, and vanilla (if using, but don't with a vanilla cake mix) on medium-low speed. In a separate small bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar. When the cake mix is combined, add the eggs to the mixer, one at a time. Add the diced strawberries and mix on low for one minute. Then place the bowl in the fridge for half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit and line baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop dough using a small ice cream scoop into 1 inch balls and place at least 2" apart on baking sheets.
- Refrigerate or freeze dough for 5-10 minutes before baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly (roughly 5 minutes) on the baking sheets before moving them to a cooling rack. Makes 30-34 small cookies.
Rate the Recipe
Other completed books by Jane Austen are the most popular Pride and Prejudice, as well as Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and the unfinished work, Sanditon.
Books mentioned within this one are The Vicar of Wakefield, The Romance of the Forest, Adelaide and Theodore, and The Children of the Abbey.
Lark Rise to Candleford is a trilogy by Flora Thompson that begins with the book Lark Rise about a tightly knit community and its dramas as seen through the eyes of a young woman. It also paints a vivid picture of English country life.
The relationship of Polly and Fanny in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl is similar to that of Emma and Harriet in this novel.
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy is also about a stubborn, opinionated young woman who is a bit snobbish, and her social misunderstandings, especially regarding love. She inherits and maintains her family farm, doing the job a woman usually wouldn’t and upending customs in the process, and often ignoring the kind, wise advice of a local shepherd, her oldest friend. She also spurns to be married or engaged, until an alluring man changes her mind. The character Gabriel is also a little like Mr. Martin.
- “I must indeed [make matches] for other people. It is the greatest amusement in the world!”
- “How delightful a well-judging and truly amiable woman could be, and must give the pleasantest proof of its being a great deal better to choose than to be chosen, to excite gratitude than to feel it.”
- “The older a person grows, the more important it is that their manners should not be bad; the more glaring and disgusting any loudness, or coarseness, or awkwardness becomes. What is passable in youth is detestable in later age.”
- “Perhaps no man can be a good judge of the comfort a woman feels in the society of her own sex, after being used to it all her life.”
- “It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her.”
- “Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.”
- “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasure of the other.”
- “It is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid...but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else.”
- “There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.”
- “Everything I have said or done, for many weeks past, has been with the sole view of marking my adoration of yourself.”
- “...a sanguine temper, though for ever expecting more good than occurs...soon flies over the present failure, and begins to hope again.”
- “It is very unfair to judge of any body’s conduct, without an intimate knowledge of their situation.”
- “There is one thing which a man can always do, if he chooses, and that is his duty; not by manoeuvering and finessing, but by vigor and resolution.”
- “Their affection was always to subside into friendship. Every thing tender and charming was to mark their parting; but still they were to part.”
- “There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart...Warmth and tenderness of heart, with an affectionate, open manner, will beat all the clearness of head in the world, for attraction.”
- “...it is not every man’s fate to marry the woman who loves him best.”
- “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”
- “Oh! The comfort of being sometimes alone.”
- “You had, somehow or other, broken bounds yesterday, and run away from your own management; but today you are got back again.”
- “I can have no self-command without a motive. You order me, whether you speak or not. And you can be always with me. You are always with me.”
- “It is only by seeing women in their own homes, among their own set, just as they always are, that you can form any just judgment. Short of that, it is all guess and luck...How many a man has committed himself on a short acquaintance, and rued it all the rest of his life!”
- “...it can only be weak, irresolute characters, (whose happiness must always be at the mercy of chance,) who will suffer an unfortunate acquaintance to be an inconvenience, an oppression for ever.”
- “When one is in great pain, you know one cannot feel any blessing quite as it might deserve.”
- “To understand, thoroughly understand her own heart, was the first endeavor.”
- “Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known how much of her happiness being first with him, first in interest and affection. Satisfied that it was so, and feeling it her due, she had enjoyed it without reflection; and only in the dread of being supplanted, found how inexpressibly important it had been…”
- “...if Harriet were to be the chosen, the first, the dearest, the friend, the wife to whom he looked for all the best blessings of existence…”
- “I was tempted by his attentions...he was continually here...my vanity was flattered, and I allowed his attentions.”
- “A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.”
- “He stopped in earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.”
- “...dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved.”
- “Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken.”
- “He had ridden home through the rain; and had walked up directly after dinner, to see how this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all if her faults, bore the discovery."
- "Oh I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other."
- "What had she to wish for? Nothing, but to grow more worthy of him, whose intentions and judgment had been ever so superior to her own."
© 2020 Amanda Leitch
Liz Westwood from UK on February 19, 2020:
This takes me back to my Jane Austen studies many years ago. The baking looks great too.
Pamela Lorenzo on February 18, 2020:
Great story! The characters are so interesting for that time period.
Naude Lorenzo on February 17, 2020:
I love Emma's story, I could almost re-lived my youth, for sure I will read the book, very interesting. The recipe sound easy to make and delicious, Thanks Amanda.