Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book #31: Emma: A Modern Retelling

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith

For the past couple of months, I've been reading a lot about a new Jane Austen project that totally intrigues me (and yes, I know it totally horrifies some of my die-hard Austen friends). Well-known authors have been challenged with re-writing her classic books and bringing them into the modern age without losing their original feel and major storyline. 

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the wildly popular No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, was tasked with bringing Emma into the 21st century. 

His Emma doesn't stray too far from Austen's - she's a spoiled and pampered daughter of a widower, a meddler in everyone's business, and in love with her "big brother"-type older friend without actually realizing it. Check, check, check.

This Emma is different only in that she's somewhat bi-curious about Harriet and she's a lazy fashion designer who doesn't see the need in working for a living.

I didn't love this novel, and I realized about halfway in that it wasn't because it was written poorly. In fact, I think it's a pretty faithful adaptation. The problem is, I think this version highlights the fact that I don't actually like Emma. She is, for want of a better word, a brat. She's Kim Kardashian dressed up as Keira Knightley, and look. We all know the difference.

I also get the feeling that she doesn't reeeeeeally love Mr. Knightley. She just doesn't want Mr. Knightley to love anyone else (Harriet) because she always gets her way.

I think the original novel is pretty much the same, but Austen paints Emma as a little more harmless and a tad more charming.

*And side note, knowing what we all know now about Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP personality, how perfect of a 90's casting choice was that?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book #30: A Dark Dividing

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne

I've read a lot of F.G. Cottam's books over the past couple of years (Dark Echo and The House of Lost Souls were the best offerings), and while he's no Stephen King, he's pretty good at summoning a good scary story. This is the first book I've read by Sarah Rayne, and I actually Googled her to see if she was actually the pen-name for F.G. Cottam, or maybe the other way around. The writing is startlingly similar. 

This story time-hops from early Victorian England and the journal entries of a well-to-do unhappily married woman to the 1980s and an unhappily married woman to present time and an unhappily unmarried woman with a secret. (Well. All three women have secrets, but it would take me about twenty paragraphs to get into all that.)

I enjoyed this book, mainly because it contained my favorite ingredients for a horror story: a crumbling and abandoned Victorian mansion turned mental asylum, a seemingly sweet but unhinged villain, and creepy children. That's pretty much all I need to get lost in the narrative.

While the ending was sort of meh, I'm going to pick up a few more of her novels and give them a go. Who doesn't like escaping into a creepy novel every once in a while?