Emma by Alexander McCall Smith


RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “Sometimes it takes time to discover who you really are. And for Emma Woodhouse the journey is only just beginning. As she returns home to Norfolk from University, Emma starts to take charge. But as she begins to match-make various friends and neighbours, some important lessons about life and relationships await her…”

REVIEW: As followers of this blog may have noticed, I have read the previous two novels that have been published under the so-called Austen Project, which has had six different, well-known authors writing modern retellings of the six major Austen novels – as I had so greatly enjoyed Trollope’s rewrite of Sense and Sensibility and Val McDermid’s rewrite of Northanger Abbey, I was really looking forward to reading McCall Smith’s version of Emma. It was a good novel, with Emma re-interpreted brilliantly and the other characters instantly recognisable from the Austen original we know and love; Mr Woodhouse’s frantic obsession with cleanliness and disease was particularly amusing, as well as seeming accurate. The story progressed at a good pace and, while the reader often finds him or herself in conflict with Emma (as also happens many times in the original novel), by the end of the story we are glad that she has found her happy ending with George Knightley – though of course, a relationship with such an age gap is harder for the modern mind to comprehend, but McCall Smith made it fitting with the modern reader, who wanted it just as much as I suspect Austen’s Georgian audience would have. My only problem with the book was that, while I felt the previous two rewrites had been bought very successfully into modernity, I did sometimes still feel as though I were reading a Georgian novel whilst reading McCall Smith’s version. Some of the language and even some of the scandals seemed somewhat outdated and I feel some might have been bought further into the future. Overall, however, this was a very entertaining retelling of what is originally a very entertaining novel, and I would recommend it to fans of Austen.


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