"Emma" is said to be Jane Austens best novel. I think I agree. The characters are just perfectly designed, and all of them could play a main role in his or her own story. Emma herself is smart, perfectly good hearted and very cheerful. It is impossible not to like her. There are a couple of very funny characters in this book which made me laugh repeatedly: Mrs Elton in her smuggy stupidity, Mr Elton who is sulky after being rejected by Emma, Mr Woodhouse and his everlasting sorrow of getting sick and the chatty, adorable Miss Bates.
Like in all of Austens novels, the main theme is marriage and finding the right partners for the singles in the upper class society of a small provincial town in England. I love the irony Austen lays in describing the ever polite conversations and visits. The realism of the story (this book could just as well have been a true story) is its main strength.
Even if this story is 200 years old, it's still appealing today just because of that. The search for the right partner just never gets outdated.