By Alexander McCall Smith
Paperback, 361 pages
2014, Anchor Books
Emma Woodhouse has grown up on her father’s large estate, complete with a governess. She’s just finished school and decided to start her own interior design business, but finds herself more interested in the doings of her friends and neighbors. She starts with her governess, Ms. Taylor and after taking credit for successfully fixing her up with family-friend Mr. Weston, Emma decides matchmaking is her new business. She begins sticking her nose into everyone’s business and soon learns that they don’t view her as helpful, but rather meddling and snobby.
I’m now all caught up on the books in this modern Austen project and I’m satisfied with how they’ve all turned out. Despite each novel having its own author and varied voices, I still think they have all captured the spirit of Jane Austen’s novels and feel like a series that belongs together.
Smith’s Emma stands out as more of a spoiled, meddling, brat than the original (though I didn’t dislike her and was naturally excited to see her character growth) and I think that’s because our modern language and times allow her character to be depicted more bluntly. As a result, I think her change of heart and her efforts at self-improvement stand out more as well.
Mr. Woodhouse is a charming hypochondriac and his constant worries about the air quality of London (where Emma’s sister resides with her husband and growing brood) and the evils of microbes had me chuckling. George Knightley was less developed than I would have expected however; he doesn’t play a large part in Emma’s life until the latter part of the novel and I had been hoping for a bit more of a build-up in regards to their relationship.
The ending wrapped up a little too quickly for my liking, but overall this was a cute, contemporary take on the classic. As with the others, I recommend it if you enjoy Jane’s work – really, if you haven’t read any of her work, these modern adaptations might be right up your alley, to give you a feel for her stories without the potential intimidation of an older writing style.
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