Emma: a modern retelling by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon Books, 2014)
I have read that there is a project among fiction publishers where modern writers retell Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in twenty-first century settings, as some kind of homage to Austen. This novel is Alexander McCall Smith’s contribution. In my opinion it’s better than the original, but I’m one of the few people in the world who hated Pride and Prejudice, so this is not a high bar. Although I am normally a fan of Alexander McCall Smith, I disliked this book for many of the same reasons I disliked the original. There’s no real plot; it’s just a lengthy and boring description of the lives of rich British people who are looking for husbands (for themselves and their peers) to help them continue their privileged lives. The main characters are just as unlikable as Austen’s original ones, although Smith does work in some commentary on their lack of understanding of the lives of the less affluent. Obviously I was unimpressed, but readers who love Jane Austen’s work might well enjoy this novel too.