BOOK REVIEW: The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer
The Importance of Being Emma is the first in Juliet Archer’s “Choc Lit” series, which will bring Austen characters and plotlines and plant them firmly in the 21st century. Can you guess which one this is based on?
This book casts spoilt rich girl Emma Woodhouse as the eponymous anti-hero, the daughter of a food magnate returned from various adventures (some of which she enjoyed at Harvard Business School) to revitalise her father’s flagging industry with her radical marketing ideas.
The trouble is, her father has also brought in the cut-throat skills of one Mark Knightley, on whom Emma had a teenage crush, and who her father tasks with mentoring his daughter. Of course, his daughter thinks she can do just fine on her own, thank you, and wishes Mark would treat her less like a clumsy kid sister and more like a... like a... well, she’ll get back to you on that.
The story is told from both Mark and Emma’s point of view, which does a great job of building the tension, but also had me shouting, “come on would you?!” every few pages. Both characters are painted brilliantly as both proud to the point of arrogance about their own shrewdness, yet blind to what’s in front of them.
And, as soon as they almost get it together, one of them does something to rub the other up the wrong way (and not in the right way, either). It’s very irritating, but it keeps you turning the pages.
Tangled into the weave of this would-be love affair are some red herrings in the form of Flynn Churchill, who catches Emma’s eye, and Emma’s ditzy PA, victim of Emma’s attempted makeovers and mismatched matchmaking. Plus some brilliant one-liners from Emma’s increasingly hypochondriac old maid-like father.
This is a good read and a clever reworking of the original (only with more sex), despite the somewhat broad brushstrokes applied to the secondary characters, and the slightly clichéd view of modern gentry sensibilities (it seemed a bit far-fetched that Emma, with all her experience and her Harvard education, would be so flummoxed by her PA’s Estuary vernacular).
But, as I said, both Mark and Emma are characterised really well, and the plot is cleverly and effectively structured to keep you hooked till the end.
Perfect for a holiday read!