Monday, February 16, 2015

The Austen Project Continues

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon hardcover, 7 April 2015).

I'm not certain how The Austen Project powers-that-be decided on who would be writing the modern versions of Miss Austen's six novels, but Alexander McCall Smith was the perfect choice for Emma.

The creator of the charmingly quirky No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series and the Isabel Dalhousie novels (among others) takes on Emma, arguably Austen's most recalcitrant protagonist, with a deft hand.  

Austen's headstrong young 19th Century girl who has seldom been far from her home in the village of Highbury becomes a 21st Century girl (most definitely not yet a woman!) who, despite having lived on her own while away at university, is still spoiled and stubborn.  McCall Smith's Emma returns to Hartfield with a degree in interior design, but no job and vague aspirations of starting her own business.  

I'd thought it might be difficult to bring Mr. Woodhouse into the present-day, but McCall Smith has no problems with that.  Emma's father turns into an agoraphobic hypochondriac who dislikes change.

The other characters are likewise brought successfully into this century, and although some actions and reactions are changed to reflect the time period, the overall flavor remains the same. 

Most Jane-ites will approve, and hopefully this retelling (as well as the others in The Austen Project) will bring novices over to the Jane side.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the digital galley.

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