I read this book as research for a writing project of my own. Once finished, I had no idea how I ought to rate it.
There is some brilliant writing here, and I highlighted some eminently quotable passages. Certainly I can now understand why the French adore some of Rousseau's ideas about education.
But even if one can get past the irony of Rousseau the child-abandoner writing (in very smug tones!) how the young ought to be raised and educated, there's the little fact that he was sexist above and beyond the call of duty. The thoughts on education that the French praise to the skies are all thoughts on the education of boys.
When he does bother to mention girls, he stresses that their education ought to lie in teaching them how to be utterly submissive and obedient. Because if you're nice enough to that wife-beater your parents married you off to, he'll stop hitting you. And if he doesn't stop hitting you, well, I guess you just weren't nice enough.
The fact that I'm paraphrasing shouldn't lead you to conclude that I'm exaggerating.
Yes, I know Rousseau lived and died in the eighteenth century. So did Mary Wollstonecraft.
So: Read this if you're interested in French history, the history of education, or Rousseau's bizarre life. And don't be fooled by the many people who refer to this book as a novel. It isn't. It's a work in which Rousseau presents his ideas about education, and at a certain point, says, "Let's pretends I was hired to be the tutor of a young man -- say his name is Emile. Here's what that might be like, and here are some conversations I can imagine having with this boy." Rousseau never claimed to be writing a novel. He simply alternates between the autobiographical and the hypothetical.