The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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May 20, 2015

Emma {The Austen Project}

Sigh. I'm 0 for 3 with The Austen Project. In a way, that's a good thing, because I didn't have high expectations for this one any more, in the giddy way I did when it was first announced...and I liked it a little more than the A.P.'s Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey.

Let me back up just a little and say that I don't mind or object on principle to books like these.  It's always a lot of fun to wonder what a modern writer will do with the story and the characters; it's just that these books don't seem to stand up as good books on their own.  A lot of the energy seems to go into finding 'clever' modern-day equivalents for the characters' situations (Mrs. and Miss Bates lost their money as Lloyd names, Mr. Woodhouse wants to ask his dinner guests if they've had all their immunizations, and so forth}, and in turn some of the characters and memorable scenes aren't given enough of an airing.  A.M.S. does give Miss Taylor {later Mrs. Weston} a more prominent place {I liked that}  but mostly there was Alexander McCall Smithish silliness without the flights and tangents that make his books so appealing to me. Fun to read, not very memorable, not Alexander McCall Smithish enough.  {There's a new Isabel Dalhousie novel coming out in July; with that, and if he would write more about Corduroy Mansions, all would be well. :) }

{Did you know that the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma falls in December?  Let's all read it then, the real one, esp. because some of us will almost certainly be mourning the end of another bicentennial ...}


Lisa said...

I enjoy the re-working of Austen's stories in film - like Clueless, my favorite. But the book form doesn't appeal to me. I'm sorry you aren't enjoying them more.

Do we have to stop celebrating at the end of the year? Maybe we should read The Pallisers next year :)

Audrey said...

Perhaps! I've been hearing great things about the Ps!

JoAnn said...

I'm a big Jane Austen fan, but have never read Emma... keep holding it back so I still have one more book to discover for the first time. The 200th anniversary sounds like the perfect time to finally break down and read it!

P.S. I had the same idea about The Pallisers ;-)

Fleur Fisher said...

I think that maybe these books were a little too 'designed to be big' if that makes sense. My favourite new takes on Austen are at the opposite end of the spectrum - anthologies published by Honno containing the best entries from an annual (I think) short story competition. There's Dancing With Mr Darcy, Wooing Mr Wickham, and I really should check to see if they've published another yet.

And I must say that you are going to love the Pallisers ...

Sunday Taylor said...

I haven't had a chance to read this though I do own a copy. This format can definitely be disappointing, though I loved the televised production of P.D. James' sequel to "Pride and Prejudice." Would love to read the real "Emma" for the 200th anniversary in December. What fun!

Karen K. said...

I've given up on modern retellings/sequel/prequels of Jane Austen's work. Why change something that's already perfect?

I'll definitely reread this before I attend the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The theme next year is Emma so I'll have to be prepared, though it isn't until October so I'll most likely read it around September.

Thank you for visiting!

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