Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recently Read: Emma: A Modern Retelling

Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Contemporary/ Retelling
Status: Part of the Jane Austen Project
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 361
Rating: 2.5

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Emma by Jane Austen Review
Recently Watched: Emma Mini-Series

This is the first book in the Austen Project that I have read. I figured this was the best one to start with because Emma is my favorite Austen I have read so far. These books have been receiving mixed reviews and I can understand why. Austen is such a beloved author and a genius that it would be such a difficult task to tackle her characters and satisfy die-hard fans.

I thought this book was just alright. It is no where near the original but I wasn't expecting it to be. I thought McCall Smith did a great job at channeling Austen's wit and humor in the character of Mr. Woodhouse, Emma's father, and his obnoxious anxieties but other elements were just off. There is so much unnecessary information in this novel. The backstory of some of the most minor characters goes on for three pages and there are random tangents about heavy topics such as imperialism and the gender of God sprinkled in that just left me a little puzzled. 

I liked the modernization of setting and most of the characters, Mr. Knightly was nicely done but I had some problems with Emma herself. The original Emma is quite unlikable for most of the novel, but she does have some redeeming qualities that encourage you to root for her despite her self-centered nature and naivety. This Emma however, did not have any redeeming qualities and was just unlikable. I also thought the pacing was a little odd as it is less than a hundred pages before the end when we meet Mr. Frank Churchill in person and Emma and Mr. Knightly have had only one or two conversations at this point in the novel. Their love felt random and I never would have bought it if I had not read the original and knew they were destined for one another. 

This was not a bad book, it was fine to read in the sun on the beach or by the pool, but it was nothing extraordinary and did not live up the the original. If you like Austen or adult contemporaries I would say it's worth a try. I have recently acquired Trollepe's Sense and Sensibility from The Austen Project and will be reading it sometime soon. Let me know your thoughts on this book or others in this series if you have read them.

Now I'm craving a reread of the original Emma but may have to satisfy myself with a rewatch of the BBC mini-series linked above.       


  1. I was wondering if you were going to read this, knowing you love Emma so much - I'm sorry to hear you didn't love it! To be honest I haven't heard great things about this retelling series in general, which is a shame, but I don't think it's helped that these retellings have exactly the same titles as the originals. I'd much rather read something that's inspired by another story, like Bridget Jones's Diary being inspired by P&P and Warm Bodies being inspired by Romeo and Juliet, rather than read something that's claiming to be a direct retelling. :)

    1. I totally agree! When you try to recreate these beloved characters in a new setting you are bound to disappoint lovers of the original. Clueless is a great adaptation of Emma for the same reason that BJ Diary is a great retelling of P&P! The original story lines are still visible but the characters are new and unique.
      Thanks for stopping by Jess!