An Originative and Decadent Reinvention of a Jane Austen’s Emma
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Mark Knightley, after working in Mumbai, India for eight years, returns to Highbury to discover that his sister-in-law, Emma Woodhouse, has grown up. While he was gone, the awkward teenager who had a crush on him matured into an intelligent, confident, and gorgeous twenty-three old preparing to make her debut as the new Marketing Director of Highbury Foods, a small mail-order food distributing company. Mark is assigned the position of being Emma’s mentor (a very fitting role for him, isn’t it?) by Mr. Woodhouse, Managing Director of Highbury Foods. Now Mark faces not only the difficult challenge of mentoring the obstinate and willful Emma, but of masking his growing feelings for her and keeping his unbrotherly thoughts at bay.
Emma, on the other hand, while elated that one of closest and dearest friends has returned, cannot help but feel exasperated that Mark still treats her like a kid sister. Trying to establish herself as an educated and competent businesswoman, Emma loathes the interference of “Know-it-all Knightley” especially when it concerns her matchmaking endeavors. In addition, she still feels the mortification of her childhood crush on him and his repulsed reaction to it. However, Emma no longer has her eyes set on Mark Knightley, she is determined that her dream man is the long-awaited-for “son of Highbury,” Flynn Churchill, a television chef from Australia.
In this contemporary adaptation of Emma, Juliet Archer aptly and admirably brings the beloved classic to the 21st Century with the inclusion of many of our old friends such as: Mr. Woodhouse, with is anxieties for his fragile health; Miss (Mary) Bates, who is still an effusive conversationalist; Jane Fairfax, who is an intern at Highbury Foods; and Harriet Smith, who is ditzier than ever and has a bizarre wardrobe to match. There are some new twists that will be surprising for Jane Austen fans, such as the existence of another woman in Mark Knightley’s life. Furthermore, I would recommend this book for Mature Audiences only as there is the occasional use of profanity and a few intimate scenes.
It was with great anticipation and excitement that I embarked upon reading The Importance of Being Emma, and it exceeded my expectations! One aspect I loved was how the author switched between Emma and Mark as the narrator (don’t worry, she did this in a clear and concise manner). It was an enlightening experience to understand and see things from both characters’ point-of-view, and I loved being privy to their personal thoughts and inner musings Moreover, I loved Ms. Archer’s portrayal of Emma and Mr. Knightley; her Emma was feisty, maddening, yet lovable, and her Mr. Knightley was very sexy and oh so irresistible!
While this novel excellently depicted the emotional and angst-filled relationship between Emma and Mark, I did feel that some of the other characters’ story-lines were sometimes a little overlooked and underdeveloped. I would have liked for the Flynn Churchill/Jane Fairfax story to be given more page time.
In her fresh and sparkling debut novel, Juliet Archer emerges as a talented and clever author that clearly loves and cherishes Jane Austen and her works! I am in raptures that Ms. Archer has ambitiously set a goal to pen more modern versions of Jane Austen’s novels in her “Jane Austen in the 21st Century Series!” I will be ecstatic if she includes Sanditon by Jane Austen and Another Lady in her series! What a treasure that would be for us voracious Austenites! Her next novel is entitled Persuade Me, can you guess which Jane Austen novel it will be reinventing?