The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer
|The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A spirited retelling of Emma by Jane Austen will provide an enjoyable read to those who know the original story and those who don't. Definitely recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: December 2008|
|Publisher: Choc Lit|
Emma Woodhouse fancies herself as something of a matchmaker, having just married off Tom Weston to her best friend and she can't resist trying her hand with a few more people. There's Harriet Smith, fond of a local man, but Emma's convinced that she could do better for herself and she's aiming to pair her off with Philip Elton. As for herself, well she rather believes herself in love with Tom Weston's son and the good-looking Mark Knightley is just a problem, even if he is rather tempting on occasions.
Does it sound familiar? If it doesn't, it should, as this is Juliet Archer's rewriting of Jane Austen's Emma. When it dropped through the letterbox on Saturday morning I was reading something rather worthy and I'm afraid that the temptation to relax and have some fun was more than I could resist and I'm not quite certain where the weekend went!
The story's set very much in the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth and Juliet Archer's retelling is skilful and never forced, despite staying very close to the original plot. Emma Woodhouse is the marketing director of Highbury Foods and Mark Knightley has come home from India to take over the reins of Donwell Organics whilst his father is away on an extended holiday. Harriet Smith is Emma's PA and she's a superb creation – Essex girl through and through. Her farva as a tan ass says something about the residence of a relative, but I'll let you work it out for yourself.
The story is told in turn by Mark and Emma in short chapters. It took me just a few moments of wondering why Emma was (seemingly) so taken by a nice pair of female legs before I got into the rhythm but after that we swung along very nicely. Sometimes it was laugh-out-loud funny to see the same situation from the so-different perspectives, and Juliet Archer knows how to keep the reader's interest and the plot moving along very smoothly.
So, what would Jane Austen have thought of Juliet Archer's retelling of Emma? Well, she'd have smiled delightedly at the writing, catching as it does the gentle comedy of her own work. She'd have been shocked at the sex scenes, wondering if, like some of the language, they were entirely necessary, particularly she might have added for those of us who are not entirely certain what 'the hilt' is and what it is in 'up to'. I think she'd have mused on the fact that the modern Emma is rather more likeable than her Georgian counterpart and enquired if that was deliberate or if we were simply more used to spoilt rich girls. She'd have nodded wisely and accepted the book as fine tribute.
The retelling of a well-known story is always risky. It can be described as an 'elegant retelling' or, at the other end of the scale, as a 'rip-off'. This isn't quite at the top end of the scale but it certainly gave this jaded reviewer an enjoyable weekend's reading that she wasn't expecting.
I'd like to thank Juliet Archer (see – she's even got the same initials) for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
For another retelling of an old story we can recommend The Food of Love by Anthony Capella.
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