Monday, 24 June 2013

Review: Emma: a latter-day tale - Rebecca H Jamison*

NOT Looking for Love: Single woman (23) seeks best friend to chat on the phone, shop the clearance racks, watch chick flicks, try out messy cooking projects, and eat Dove dark chocolates.
Emma isn’t so good at the whole life-coaching thing. Her first client ended up with a broken heart and is threatening to relapse into bad habits. Now Emma has problems of her own to deal with, and they all start with one name: Justin.
Justin is her best friend, so it’s hard for Emma not to feel betrayed when she suspects he’s falling for her childhood rival. And she knows she’s losing him despite her best efforts. How is she supposed to help other people when she’s drowning in her own failures?
Fans of Jane Austen’s Emma will love this modern retelling of the classic romance novel. Fall in love with Emma’s latter-day tale of redemption, forgiveness, and the quest for true love.

Now, I know some people immediately distrust any sort of re-telling of Austen but I honestly think these books have their place. While I understand part of the appeal of Austen is the richness of language and the immersion in the historical era, sometimes you do just want the story and I've known many people who have read a modern version of Austen and only then been tempted to read the original. With that in mind, I thought I'd give Emma: a Latter-Day Tale a go.

Sharper minds amongst you may have picked up on the fact that this particular retelling of Emma isn't merely adding a new contemporary twist but also a LDS slant too. I must admit that I've never actually read a LDS novel before and normally I do steer clear of an overtly religious novels. However, I was glad that I gave Emma a chance as while the LDS elements are entwined throughout the novel it never feels sanctimonious or overly moralising.

The book is fairly faithful to Austen's original tale with a few subtle re-works in order to make it fit better in a contemporary setting. Emma is still as big a busybody as ever and still, in my opinion, as difficult to get along with. Jamison makes some skilful comparisons between her Emma and Scarlet O'Hara which I thought were particularly fitting.

In regards to the plot of the novel I felt that sometimes it dragged along a little and that with the added contemporary angle it would have been fairly easy to spice it up a bit with some additional dialogue and communication between the characters, particularly Emma and Justin. However, if you like Emma you're sure to appreciated all the little nods that Jamison manages to fit in throughout the book.

I think it takes great skill and no little amount of courage to take on a classic like Emma and make it your own. Jamison handles this task well and gives the tale an interesting addition in the form of her LDS twist. While I didn't overly mind the LDS theme throughout the novel I was prepared for it and can see how it could put some readers off. If you really like Austen's novels and are looking for something a bit fresher with a new and interesting twist I do encourage you to give Emma: a Latter-Day Tale a chance.

*ARC copy received from the publisher, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Emma: a Latter-Day Tale is due for publication on August 13th

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