I am now firmly stuck in a Jane Austen spiral, so I decided to tackle Emma, a Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith, which is the 3rd installment of The Austen Project. First let me admit here that Emma is my least favorite Austen. I know, I know, I know. I have had people tell me that I am missing the point on this for 20 years, but I am going to stand by it. Emma is a pompous, ignorant, know it all brat and I can’t stand her. I know we are supposed to find her charming and naïve but I find her manipulative and terrible. That being said, I could also say that strawberry is my least favorite flavor of ice cream, but it’s still ice cream and ice cream is delicious.
For the retelling, Alexander McCall Smith really nails the sense of satire and humor of the original, and for this reason alone I enjoyed it very much. In this modern(ish) story, Emma is a college graduate who has moved back into her childhood home with her hypochondriac father to launch an interior design business. She spends her summer giving opinions to everyone who never asked, and meddling in everyone’s lives. All the main players are back; Jane Fairfax is still the only person in western literature who is more appalling than Emma, and I appreciate that consistency, Harriet Smith is dumber than ever but outsmarts her in the end. I think we can all agree that the best part of the story is Knightly, and he is BARELY in this at all, which is a disappointment, but the Frank Churchill scenes are great.
Overall, I enjoyed the book very much. I would not say that this is the best adaptation of Emma, because as I believe we can all universally acknowledge, that would have to be the 1995 Amy Heckerling movie, Clueless, which gave us the eternally best insult line of all time “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” Now, THAT was a classic.
Grade – B