I am a huge fan of Austen retellings because they are my favorite classics and I love them interpreted for a modern audience. But Emma is actually not one of those favorites, because it’s hard to empathize with the main character for the most part and I always thought it would never work in a contemporary setting. That idea was busted when I read I Could Write A Book and loved it so much; so I decided I will give this adaptation a try too.
Emma in the classic is a meddlesome young woman with a good heart but the Emma in this book, however, is very patronizing, selfish and judgmental. She covers up her own insecurities about abandonment by her parents, by putting up a false confident image and uses this to project a certain version of herself for her blog and to her friends. She also uses people to further her needs, whether she realizes it herself or not. She thinks quite highly of herself, judging others for their beauty, social status and worthiness and ends up finding them lacking or in need of her intervention.
It’s the side characters that really made this book a good experience for me. Adam Knightley is definitely the swoony hero worthy of the classic. He is a good person who deeply cares for Emma and only wants best for her. He is also very compassionate and understanding, lending a shoulder for Hailey to cry on when Emma’s plans for her backfire; always looking out for Belinda and her mother; even looking out for Juliette when Emma’s completely ruins her reputation. I liked that he never backed out from telling Emma the truth about her behavior, even when he couldn’t express the depth of his true feelings. I also loved the characters of the slightly naive Hailey who gains self confidence through the novel and the lovely Juliette who may feel aloof, but is just a strong woman minding her own business.
I enjoyed the writing of this book very much. It was very easy to read and I could get through it very quickly. I also liked the changes to the original, like Emma’s estranged relationship with her father and addition of the whole celebrity and gossip magazine angle. I just feel Emma is probably not a very easy protagonist to adapt for our current sensibilities, and trying to do that just made her more unlikable. I’m glad that she realizes her mistakes and works to better herself, but I also think we should have gotten more of her working towards forgiveness from everyone she has wronged. Even though I enjoyed the overall story, I just feel her redemption came too easy.
If you really like the story of Emma, you should definitely give this a try. It also sticks quite close to the original, so you should be prepared for an extreme slow burn with almost no romance till the end. But the conclusion is definitely very satisfactory.
PS: Thanks a lot to Red Envelope Press and Netgalley for providing me with the opportunity to review the advance reader copy of this book.