Emma: A Modern Retelling


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Alexander McCall Smith's gentle satire and cozy, old-fashioned sensibility prove to be the perfect match for Jane Austen's wit and characters. Though carriages have been replaced by Mini Coopers and cups of tea with cappuccinos, Emma is wonderfully timeless.

The summer after university, Emma Woodhouse returns home to the village of Highbury, and to the household of her hypochondriac father, who has been living alone on a steady diet of vegetables and vitamin supplements. Cultivating grand plans for the future, she prepares to launch her interior-design business and strike out on her own, but in the meantime turns her attention to the matching of people, rather than fabric patterns. Soon Emma befriends Harriet Smith, the nave but charming young teacher's assistant at an English-language school run by the hippie-ish Mrs. Goddard. Harriet is Emma's inspiration to do the two things she does best: offer guidance to those less wise in the ways of the world and put her matchmaking skills to good use. Happily, this summer presents abundant opportunities for her to do just that, as many friends, both old and new, are drawn into the sphere of Emma's occasionally injudicious counsel: Frank Churchill, the attractive stepson of Emma's former governess; George Knightley, Emma's brother-in-law and dear friend; the charming yet self-important Philip Elton; and, of course, the perfect (and perfectly vexing) Jane Fairfax.

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