Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith – Book Review

Apparently this book is part of a retelling of three of Jane Austens’ books, Sense and Sensibility, (which has been published, written by Joanna Trollope, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice which will be updated by Curtis Sittenfeld), in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Pride and Prejudice.

I love McCall Smith, and love what I call his “Bertie Books” otherwise known as the “44 Scotland Street Novels”, so I went into the reading of this book with the expectation that I would enjoy it.  I really liked how he updated this book. But, I also have to admit that I had forgotten how much I disliked Emma. She was simply way too full of herself. So, McCall Smith did indeed follow in Jane Austens’ footsteps by making this character extremely hard to like.

What I’ve found interesting about the long-term staying power of the original Emma is how the book has remained so popular for so long, while at the same time having such an unlikeable main character. Of course, the original book had the old-fashioned time-frame going for it; McCall Smith had none of that here. Yet, I continued to read it. Why? Because even though Emma was highly unlikeable, I kept thinking that, just as with the original, she would eventually “get hers” and, would learn her lesson.

Of course, as anyone who has read the original knows, Emma does indeed get served her comeuppance, and becomes who she should have been all along. While the book was difficult to update; the realities of life in the original Emma would be hard to replicate in our modern age, I did enjoy the way in which it was updated. I found this to be a really good read, as anything that McCall Smith writes is. I highly recommend it.


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