WYR: 21st Century Highbury

Some weeks I’m itching for a good mystery. Others I’m craving an emotional roller coaster. Or fantasy. Or historical fiction. Or goodness knows what. It might be brand new or something ancient or anywhere in between. In any case, it’s nice to share, so …

What’s Your Read?

I’m a Janeite. I wear the badge of Austen fandom with pride.

However, I will make a confession. Emma is almost my least favorite of Jane Austen’s novels (Mansfield Park, though a lovely book, technically wins that award; one of them had to, right?). Admittedly, this is like saying that an incredible slice of sugar cream pie (Emma) is just not quite as exquisite as a dark chocolate pavlova dripping in caramel sauce (Persuasion). Not a fair comparison as far as I’m concerned, and both are delicious.

The reason I’m less fond of Emma is because I’m less fond of Emma. That is, Emma (the person) has to change quite a bit through the course of the story, and for at least the first half of the book her blind insistence of her own superiority in intuition and society annoys the daylights out of me. It takes effort to like her, which, ultimately, is why the story is wonderful.

None of my annoyance with her as a character would keep me from reading Emma again and again, and it certainly hasn’t kept me from reading Alexander McCall Smith’s modern retelling either.

Emma is now a recent college grad, living back at home in Highbury with her delicate father and surrounded by the usual host of interesting characters. But the true charm making me love this version is Anne Taylor. No longer the demure figure that flits in and out to give advice, reflect on Emma’s motherless state, or prod the plot forward with her own marriage. Emma’s former governess with her good Scottish sense and intolerance for those who cannot admit their own fault is now more than a match for Mr. Woodhouse’s eccentricities. I’d read a spin-off about this Miss Taylor any day.

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

  Have a suggestion for my next read? What’s yours?

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