Today I am reviewing Emmeline by Sarah Holman. It’s the first book in the Vintage Jane Austin Collection. Now I’m not really into Jane Austen very much. I’ve been slowly making my way through her books on audio and I’ve still got Persuasion to go. But Emma is my favourite and I like retellings.
Emmeline did not disappoint. Sarah Holman’s style is different to Austen’s of course, but she’s kept the spirit of the story while changing it to another time. I found it a little more relate-able, 1930 is much more like 2017 than 1815 is.
I love the characters she has given us. Emmeline Wellington is very much Emma Woodhouse, yet she’s slightly different too. There an extra little bit of kindness or teasing; I can’t quite pin it down. Mr Knightly has become Frederick Knight. He is (as is suitable to the time period) only a few years older than Emmeline and has some boyish habits. The relationship between them is a little. He’s the best friend since childhood, not the good neighbour who takes the part of a much older brother from time to time. In short they’re closer.
There’s a few things that have always bothered me about Jane Austen;s books. Her opinion of clergymen is one. Yes, there is Mr. Tilney tilting the scale back, but I don’t like her tendency to make them self-serving, social climbers. We don’t have that here. Instead of Mr. Elton, there is a fashionable young man who’s a little bit too modern and doesn’t respect traditions.. (He wants to have a dance, Shock! Horror!) His wife is suitably insufferable.
The other things that bother me are the lack of real Christianity1 and the non-productive upper-class living. Both of those have been changed. Emmeline is undoubtedly, though not overly strongly Christian in it’s feel and society. And Emmeline has a job in her father’s business. Rather like mine actually. Her father own a General Motors showroom and the Depression plays a large role in the story.
I loved the other themes that came up in it and the little changes and the big twist at the end. Yes, there’s a big twist at the end. A secondary plot of sorts. And there’s delightful ending, much humour and much fun. I’m looking forward to reading more books in this collection someday, even though they’re not by Sarah Holman.
(Just a quick comment to add that I am not denying that Jane Austen was a brilliant writer who made great use of theme.)
1. A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country Contrasted with Real Christianity by William Wilberforce was written during this time.