Alexander McCall Smith reimagines Emma

Posted on 3rd June 2015 by Rob Chilver
Alexander McCall Smith gives Jane Austen's classic a modern twist.

Beloved author Alexander McCall Smith brings Austen's classic Emma into the modern age with all the wit you'd expect from both authors.

Sometimes it takes awhile to discover who you really are and for Emma Woodhouse the journey is only just beginning. After graduating, she returns home to Norfolk where she plans to set up a design business. But that summer, as Emma begins to match-make various friends and neighbours, some important lessons about life and relationships await her. Read the opening pages below.


Emma changed the subject. ‘Dinner,’ she said abruptly. ‘I think that I would like to have a dinner party.’

Mr Woodhouse put down his knife and fork. ‘Why?’

‘Because I’ve been away for so long and don’t want to get out of touch with people around here. You know how it is. You need to see people to keep in touch with them.

This pleased Mr Woodhouse a great deal. He never dared confess his vision of Emma’s future, which involved her staying at Hartfield forever, and not just for this final summer. She could have her design consultancy there – or whatever it was that she wanted to do – but she would stay in the house with him and Miss Taylor. Why go elsewhere? Why go and live in London in a house with two bedrooms – if you were lucky – when you already had a house with eleven? He could not see why anybody would want to do that; he simply could not understand the cast of mind that led people to live in what he saw as urban chicken coops.

‘Of course you must have a dinner party,’ he said. ‘Whom will we invite?’

‘The locals,’ said Emma. ‘George Knightley, of course.’

She spoke almost without thinking, but now she wondered why she had mentioned George and why she had said ‘of course’. Was it because she knew her father liked him, and she wanted to make sure that he would feel involved in the dinner party? Possibly. Or was it something else? Recently she had found herself thinking quite frequently of George Knightley. He had crossed her mind when she drove her Mini Cooper over to the garage to arrange for a service. She had imagined what it would be like to be George and to be getting up in the morning and deciding what to do with your day. Would he shave before he took a shower, or did he shave after his shower but before breakfast? Or perhaps he took a bath; there were some people who looked as if they took showers and some who looked as if they took baths. He was a shower person, she thought, because he always looked so well groomed and energetic; bath people were more . . . more dishevelled perhaps, less ready to go for a long run or do twenty press-ups on the ground. It was a pointless, ridiculous thing to think about, but it occupied her mind for a full ten minutes. And afterwards she had felt quite uncomfortable – as if somehow she had been there with him, watching him.

Then she had thought of him again when she lay in bed the other night, waiting for sleep to overtake her. She suddenly saw his face; she saw him looking at her and smiling, and she smiled back in the dark, a smile seen by nobody else, of course, not even by herself in a mirror, a passing smile, but a smile nonetheless. It was as if they were greeting each other; as if they were complicit in some unspoken exchange. The real George Knightley was available enough – she saw him reason­ably frequently, and they chatted amicably, but this particular understanding did not pass between them in those real encoun­ters – it was something more private, and the more pleasurable for that. Miss Taylor had said something about those sorts of thoughts; she had spoken once of the memories that people bring out and savour, unwrapping them with all the care with which one uncovers some tangible souvenir, some cherished object. And now, quite suddenly, she thought of George with that sort of pleasure.


Her father brought her back to the present.


Sign In To Respond

There are currently no comments.