Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: Emma


The latest Jane Austen novel to get updated by the fine folks at The Austen Project is Emma. Acclaimed author Alexander McCall Smith was tapped to rewrite this novel for today's audience. I went in with the hope that I'd enjoy Emma more if she were modern. Nope. Still not a fan of that girl!

Here's the synopsis:
Prepare to meet a young woman who thinks she knows everything
Fresh from university, Emma Woodhouse arrives home in Norfolk ready to embark on adult life with a splash. Not only has her sister, Isabella, been whisked away on a motorbike to London, but her astute governess, Miss Taylor is at a loose end watching as Mr. Woodhouse worries about his girls. Someone is needed to rule the roost and young Emma is more than happy to oblige.
At the helm of her own dinner parties, and often found either rearranging the furniture at the family home of Hartfield, or instructing her new protegee, Harriet Smith, Emma is in
charge. You don’t have to be in London to go to parties, find amusement or make trouble.
Not if you’re Emma, the very big fish in the rather small pond.
But for someone who knows everything, Emma doesn’t know her own heart. And there is only one person who can play with Emma’s indestructible confidence, her friend and inscrutable neighbour George Knightly – this time has Emma finally met her match?
Ever alive to the social comedy of village life, beloved author Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma is the busybody we all know and love, and a true modern delight.
I first read Austen's Emma for a university film class. We had to read the book, watch the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation, then Clueless, and finally write an essay. I seriously disliked it. It wasn't the writing or the time period - it was Emma herself. She's nosy and annoying and thinks she knows all. I was really hopeful that the updated Emma would be slightly less insufferable. No such luck. All of her frustrating qualities seem to transfer over to the modern age!

As with some of the other updates I've read, I didn't really think McCall Smith did a great job of modernizing the story. Granted, I imagine it would be kind of hard when one of the biggest storylines is Emma staying at home with her father and eventually falling in love with a much older man. Too much stays the same (why does Emma still have a governess in modern day England? Unless that's still a thing?) and that disappoints me.

This is, clearly, a short review but I just couldn't think of anything to say. (Why beat around the bush, eh?) I didn't enjoy Jane Austen's Emma and I certainly didn't enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's retelling. I don't think it did what The Austen Project wanted it to do...though I'm beginning to wonder what that is...please, oh please, don't let them butcher Pride and Prejudice, which is up next. 

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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