My last weeks of March were supposed to be full of English adventures — meandering the historic streets of Bath, wandering the moors of the south and exploring by the seaside.

Travel restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to my trip, and the trips of many others, though that doesn’t mean we can’t still travel, in some form.

RiverTown is launching RiverTown Reads, a book club that is perfect for people who don’t have time, or, for the foreseeable future, can not meet with a group of people to discuss a book. Each month we’ll pick a book to read and then “talk” about it in the paper and rivertowns.net.

At the beginning of the month, RiverTown reporters will choose and announce a book. Then, at the end of the month, we will share our thoughts about the book and encourage our readers to do the same. If you submit your thoughts about the month’s read, we might publish your review with ours.

We are also always looking for recommendations. Let us know if you have a favorite book, author, theme or genre.

April's book is "Emma" by Jane Austen.
April's book is "Emma" by Jane Austen.

This month we’ll be reading Jane Austen’s “Emma.” The classic story follows the wealthy Miss Emma Woodhouse who, though she sees no reason to marry for herself, is determined to play matchmaker to her friends in the village of Highbury.

Like many of Austen’s works, “Emma” has been adapted several times, from the Gwyneth Paltrow-led movie of the same name to the 1990s “Clueless.” The most recent adaptation, directed by Autumn de Wilde, premiered this year. With movie theaters closing, the film was also released for at-home viewing.

To send us your reviews of “Emma” and book recommendations contact: Rebecca Mariscal (rmariscal@rivertowns.net) or Rachel Fergus (rfergus@rivertowns.net).

Questions to consider as you read:

  1. How does Emma differ from the typical Austen protagonist? How does she differ from other 19th century protagonists?

  2. What are the dynamics of the friendship between Emma and Harriet Smith? Is it equal, or beneficial to either of them?

  3. How does Emma fare as a matchmaker? Are her intentions good?

  4. How does Emma’s character develop and change over the course of the book? Who and what are the biggest influences on this?

  5. What about Jane Austen’s writing has made her books stay relevant and loved, even 200 years later?

  6. Have you seen any of the Emma adaptations? Which do you prefer?

  7. Were there any themes that you followed or most enjoyed while reading the book (for example: classism, sexism or interactions with the natural world)?

  8. Who was your favorite character? Why? Did you have a least favorite character?

  9. How would you summarize this novel in one sentence?