First off I must tell you that I’ve been an avid fan of Jane Austen since I was a young teenager. I have read most of the reimagined books including ones that had zombies and vampires. I was very interested about the Austen Project when I heard that they were going to be taking many of Austen’s classics and reimagining them for modern times. Emma was the third of this new series to be released and Alexander McCall Smith was chosen to pen this one.
McCall Smith has taken the basic pieces of the classic story and reinvented them into a modern retelling of the classic. It is written for the modern reader, leaving out much of Austen’s original speech that can be daunting for today’s readers. Emma’s father now becomes an intense hypochondriac worrying about vaccines and antibacterial soap. Emma also gets a modern upgrade with a new mini Cooper that she drives around town. There are also many quips about McCall Smith’s town of Edinburgh, Scotland that you may not catch unless you have actually traveled there.
While Emma was not my favorite of Austen’s books, I do believe this book does honor the original character’s personalities. While Emma was not a favorite of mine in the original book, I really formed a dislike for her in McCall Smith’s book. I think that it’s because he took a lot more time to develop the main characters (Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, Harriett) then Austen did in the original. In doing this, he however leaves little time for Mr. Knightly and others in the story. This was the only disheartening part of the novel for myself because the reader misses out of Emma’s blooming relationship and it seems like an afterthought at the end of the book. The author does leave some of the original formality in the book, including mention of the room Mr. Woodhouse entertains his guests in and also some very formal speech.
The story is delightful overall and a fun beach read. I would recommend it to readers, but would recommend that they possibly read the original after or before reading McCall Smith’s re-imagination. Many die hard Austen fans may view this is a heresy, but I think McCall Smith does a wonderful job both paying respect to the original, but also putting a new spin on the classic story. The book would also be a good primer for readers that are slightly frightened to begin reading Austen’s originals. Overall this has been one of the best re-imaginations of Austen’s classics yet.
Formats available: Book, E-book
Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch