Those of you who know my Janeite side know that I am not a purist. I am not against taking the novels out of their early 19th century setting and putting them in another era. That does not mean that every modern adaptation is worthy of the original novel.
Famed mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith entered the Jane Austen arena with his modern rewrite of Austen’s 4th novel, Emma.
As she is in the original novel, Emma Woodhouse is “rich, clever and handsome”. She lives with her widower, hypochondriac father and her governess, Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor is recently engaged to Mr. Weston. Emma has recently graduated college and is eager to start her interior design business. But first she has some matchmaking to do.
Her initial success with Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston leads her down a dangerous path. She may or may not have mistakenly guided her new friend Harriet Smith away from Robert Martin, the son of local B&B owners and potentially into a match with Philip Elton, the local vicar. Add in Emma’s longtime neighbor/verbal sparring partner/ brother in law George Knightley and you have what may end up being an interesting summer.
I will forewarn my fellow Janeites that if you are a purist, you will not like this book. McCall Smith has taken some liberties with his take on Emma. While I am not a purist in any sense of the word and I do enjoy a modern adaptation, I still prefer certain traditional elements of the novel and the character to remain. McCall Smith has taken too many liberties for my liking.
Do I recommend this book? If you don’t mind too many changes to character and story, then yes. But if you prefer the novel in it’s original form, then I recommend that you stay away.
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