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3.14  ·  Rating details ·  12,880 ratings  ·  2,218 reviews
The summer after she graduates from university, Emma Woodhouse returns home to the village of Highbury, where she will live with her health-conscious father until she is ready to launch her interior-design business and strike out on her own. In the meantime, she will do what she does best: offer guidance to those less wise than she is in the ways of the world. Happily, thi ...more
Hardcover, The Austen Project #3, 361 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Pantheon (first published November 6th 2014)
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Judy Holt I suggest taking this book for what it is a light summer read that is pleasant, fairly predictable but enjoyable. It is not meant to be a deep read bu…moreI suggest taking this book for what it is a light summer read that is pleasant, fairly predictable but enjoyable. It is not meant to be a deep read but, in the end, it is a fun spoof on the wonderful Emma, by Jane Austen. (less)
Lahni No. I've been reading them all out of order. So far, the original Jane Austen is much, much better though. …moreNo. I've been reading them all out of order. So far, the original Jane Austen is much, much better though. (less)

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Average rating 3.14  · 
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 ·  12,880 ratings  ·  2,218 reviews

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Nov 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not with a bang but a whimper...

I wouldn't have thought it possible for any of these Austen Project books to reach lower depths than Joanna Trollope's Sense & Sensibility, but I fear this one does. After Val McDermid's surprisingly enjoyable take on Northanger Abbey, I hoped the series might be capable of redemption – I was wrong. There are some MILD SPOILERS ahead...

The first few pages are quite fun with lots of little jokes about class and McCall Smith's hometown of Edinburgh. But it's a false
"Badly done. Badly done indeed." - Mild Spoilers ahead

“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

I am sorry to say that I found this book extremely disappointing. Alexander McCall Smith - while grasping the issues of Emma by Jane Austen on a certain, superficial level - seems to have totally missed out on all the fine points in his attempt at "translating" this perfect work of art into modern.

The book has 2 major (and several minor) drawbacks.
One is that it comple
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After a couple of real disasters I promised myself I would not read any more books from the Austen Project. Then along came my favourite Austen novel Emma rewritten by one of my favourite authors Alexander McCall Smith and how could I resist? And I am so glad I didn't because I loved this book! McCall Smith chose to write the story exactly as Austen did just putting it in a modern time frame and expanding a little on the characters' back stories and their behaviours. It is all written in Alexand ...more

Well, for starters, this was a very mean book because it seemed okay for the first half of the book, so by the time I grew disgusted with it, I was committed and wanted to see how it turned out. (Because even though it's a retelling, I had my doubts about how it would end!!!)

And this book has probably more important problems, but my biggest problem is Knightley was hardly in it!!! Like, he and Emma basically have three conversations. This is why I didn't know how the book would turn out, es
Julie Bestry
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a well-written but not-very-good book. Stay with me here. Of the various Austen Project books, I'd say it's the least awful, which is, I suppose, praising with faint damnation.

Alexander McCall Smith writes very well. That isn't the problem. There's a brief section in the backstory of John and George Knightley where we learn that the parents divorced and the mother, who stayed on at Donwell, eventually met a man with whom she traveled, and the paragraph is intriguing, as if it could have
Jon McKnight
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ALEXANDER McCall Smith is a brave man. A very brave man. How else can you explain his willingness, indeed his eagerness, to meddle with Emma, one of the most cherished of Jane Austen's novels?

It's true that Mr McCall Smith left the country almost immediately after his modern retelling of Emma hit the bookshops, but I'm told his decision to publish and be absent wasn't an indication of doubt on his part as to the novel's critical reception but was actually because he needed to embark on a promise
Feb 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I wanted to love it, I really did. I have loved all incarnations of this character, from Austen's own to 'Clueless' to the BBC adaptions to 'Emma Approved.' But...this just didn't capture any charm for me and if you're going to revamp an Austen novel, you better have bucket loads of charm, clever banter and character development that goes beyond a few expositional paragraphs told from too many perspectives. This story felt like it was being told using literary elements right out of the 19
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019, fiction, romance
Started off promising, went down from there. Did not care for McCall Smith's inference that bringing Emma up-to-date meant that morals had to go downhill. But even that aside, true Emma-aficionados beware!* Stick to Jane.

Oh! But if you have (temporarily) exhausted Ms. Austen and are looking for a good author who will take you a little beyond Pemberly, say, look up my friend, Skylar Hamilton Burris. She writes in the true tradition of J.A.

*It is not bad-bad, but it is exactly what two stars stan
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book in the Austen Project and I really had high hopes. Alexander McCall Smith writes one of my favorite series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and I thought he might bring the needed warmth to the story. It was a good book, pleasant to read, but nothing special. It struggles with the juxtaposition of Emma in modern times. Part of the problem is not the author's fault. It is just disconcerting to see Emma with a cell phone and an e-mail.

The character still interact with
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scottish
I’m not sure a modern take on Austen’s classic was a good idea in this case. McCall Smith didn’t exactly murder Emma, but he turned her/it into something rather silly that bore little resemblance to Austen’s wonderful original. I have enjoyed McCall Smith’s books previously, his gentle, humorous musings on life in either Edinburgh or Botswana, but this was a disappointment. There were some OK scenes here and there but too many inane conversations and too many changes that didn’t result in a mode ...more
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful writer! I keep meaning to get to his Ladies #1 Detective Agency series, and now I see he has a whole lot of titles and series to his name! There was a certain sweetness to this novel that's an updated version of Austen's original, which I am sad to say I haven't read yet either, so I'm now curious to see how it compares. I so enjoyed the story of Emma and how she matures into her life with such insightfulness. I'm a fan now of Smith - he's truly accomplished.

Thanks to Goodreads
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I mostly bought this because I was at a signing and wanted to get more of his books signed, and I'm pleased that I picked this one. Emma, more than the other Austen books, lends itself to a modern setting. Meddling, spoiled rich girls exist even now, whereas a lot more of the social mores in the other books would have to be changed or updated. Here, Emma's father is a germaphobe and health nut who never leaves their grand house, and Emma is . . . a spoiled rich girl with a passion for making thi ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is there anything Alexander McCall Smith writes that isn't a breath of fresh air?

This retelling of Jane Austen's Emma was delightful and very adroitly done. I love the character of Emma's father best of all. His little quirks and paranoid delusions were wonderful! I think I've known people with those beliefs but never all in the same person!

Emma is the same as we've know before except now she drives a Mini Cooper and studied interior design.

I really enjoyed this book.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

I could only think as I finished this book, "What a waste." The Austen Project is SUCH a good idea, and Alexander McCall Smith is SUCH a charming writer, but somehow nothing here is reaching its potential. Instead of truly updating Emma, he wrote what feels like a vanity project. He obviously adores Mr. Woodhouse, and while I enjoyed the character, he is not the meat of Emma and shouldn't have been the main focus here. Emma herself isn't frust
This is a modern re-telling of the Jane Austen classic by Alexander McCall Smith for the Austen Project. I’ve read Jane Austen’s version, although many years ago, but from what I remember of it, it would be hard to deny that it is more superficial than my favourite Austens, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

This version, however, is even more superficial, and where the original Emma is at least a generally nice person and motivated to help others for their benefit, this Emma is a mor
Sep 12, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed McCall Smith's re-telling of 'Emma' in a modern setting. Emma has remained a spoilt, over-indulged daughter of the privileged classes who needs less ego and more empathy and her father Mr Woodhouse is still an anxious hypochondriac worrying about all sorts of modern diseases and calamities like global warming . I also enjoyed Harriet Smith re-invented as a temporary ESL teacher while waiting to embark on a gap year. However, I did feel that we didn't see enough of Mr Knightley to get a ...more
Jane Austen's Emma is a finely crafted novel. Clues are carefully woven throughout the story, so that the astute reader can pick up on the mystery of the novel. McCall Smith's Emma lacks the finesse of the original. I had really high hopes for The Austen Project, but after reading Val McDermid's take on Northanger Abbey and McCall Smith's take on Emma, I think that it's safe to say that this project is not for me. There really is no author like Austen, and these retellings are quite weak. Maybe ...more
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2017-completed
Some folks do not enjoy retellings – that is, a modern or adapted version of a classic. That got me thinking about why I do enjoy them. For me, most stories are retellings as they retell, from an author’s perspective, a story that happened somewhere, sometime, somewhere.

Sub sole nihil novi est. From what I have read, this phrase was first pulled from Ecclesiastes and translated as “There is nothing new under the sun.” I do realize there is more context to this that takes the meaning to a differe
Indrani Sen
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: uk
Liked this re-telling of Emma a lot. It's just that Emma is not very likeable. McCall Smith's style is more subdued in this novel. I found myself missing his usual style a little. If you have not read Emma yet, this would be good and easy to read. ...more
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I have an embarrassing confession to make: I have never read a Jane Austen novel. [Gasp!] I know, sad isn't it, especially since my older daughter is a Janeite who reads Austen's books over and over. For that reason, I feel inadequate to really evaluate Alexander McCall Smith's "modern retelling" (until I have read the original telling, at least---which I plan to do). I will say that, if you like McCall Smith's work, you will probably like this, as it is, in many ways, vintage McCall Smith. He h ...more
1995: Watched Clueless, loved it.
1995-1996: Tried to read Emma, could not get into it.
1996: Watched Gwyneth Paltrow movie, confirmed that this story was not for me.
2016: After reading Eligible for book club, decided to give AMS's retelling a try, even though my previous experience with AMS (also for book club) was not successful. was pretty good. Emma is seriously f***ing annoying, but she's supposed to be. George Knightley, I didn't really get. He just seemed a bit dull and self-importa
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
After reading two of the four books that are part of The Austen Project, I have given up. It is clear that no matter how much we love the stories themselves, they just aren't the same without our beloved Jane telling them.

I know authors like Alexander McCall Smith and others have greatly relished this opportunity, but I am done with this project. The Emma I read about in this retelling was not just a modernized version of Austen's Emma. This Emma is a spoiled, manipulative brat. She blunders ar
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
This modern retelling of Emma has way too much backstory. The first quarter of the book is all about Mr. Woodhouse and his history, then how Miss Taylor came to live with them (with a Sound of Music reference - love it!) and how Isabella met John. Finally, about halfway through we meet Emma, recently returned from University in Bath with a degree in design and nothing to do. She hosts a dinner party for the neighbors and decides to fix up her former governess, Miss Taylor, with widower James Wes ...more
Emma is a rich, spoilt young woman, fresh from university and back in Norfolk where she enjoys being a big fish in a tiny pond.

The idea of getting well known authors to re-work Austen’s novels into a modern setting is a tricky one. The focus on class and the responsibilities of those with money has less importance and so Emma’s interfering seems less plausible. Emma as a character provokes strong reactions and although her spoilt and manipulative traits remain at the core of the story it is les
Sep 28, 2015 marked it as abandoned
I'm quitting this a third of the way through. I'm not sure what exactly the point is of a modern adaptation of Austen if so much of the language feels as though it's trying to ape her style. I assumed the point would be to retell these stories in a modern context, and, for me, that should include the voice of the novel as well. I waned to quit when I was 15% in and still on Mr. Woodhouse, a good background character but one that should stay there, and I finally had to give up.

I was leery of this
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humoresque, britmania
"To dispatch one's friends to a dictionary from time to time is one of the more sophisticated pleasures of life, but it is one that must be indulged in sparingly: to do it too often may result in accusations of having swallowed one's own dictionary, which is not a compliment, whichever way one looks at it."
Alexander McCall Smith, Emma

3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this story and think McCall Smith did a great job of capturing the spirit and tone of Austen's language and characters in a contemporary c
Julie G
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My only complaint. . . is that it ended. I loved every sentence, every seamless transition, all authentic dialogue, and the flawless character development by such a pro. Jane Austen is smiling in her humble little grave.
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This modern adaptation was incredibly fun to read, especially since Emma is my favourite Austen book and recently I've been reading quite a lot by McCall Smith.
Austen's tone and character depictions are quite peculiar and characteristic of her classic novels, so it was comforting to see that style adopted by Alexander McCall Smith, while still also recognising his humour and tone within the text.
I would have liked to see the modern elements appear a bit more strongly in this novel, however, as i
This was unexpectedly fun. The three stars is NOT because of McCall Smith--this is also what I gave Jane Austen's novel--it's my least favourite of her most famous novels. That said, McCall Smith has done a lovely job of maintaining much of the feel. He did a fabulous job of Mr. Woodhouse. Naturally, since Emma is living in the 21st century he has had to update many things, but he managed to do so and yet maintain the story quite well as I recall it. If he were the one to have done this entire s ...more
3.5 stars.
Came across this book when I was searching for a prompt in IR Snake and ladders book challenge . The prompt was retelling of fairytales / novels
Jane Austen as well as Alexander McCall Smith are my favourite authors, and when I saw one of my favourite authors retelling another of my favourite's tales, I jumped for it.

But this Emma was not as well told as the original , for most of the part, though it had its shining moments.

I liked the modern Emma and her fallacies , almost as much as
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Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what ...more

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