Every summer I usually have more time to read than I do during the school year. I have several books I want to read for my own growth in various fields of study (history, literature, philosophy, theology, etc), I usually have three or four (sometimes more) that I want to pre-read or skim for the upcoming school year, I always have some for work (new best-sellers, genre fiction, and writing books), and then there are the books I read just for fun. While on vacation last week, I read a new-to-me Georgette Heyer historical fiction novel, one of the Fairacre series by Miss Read, one of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith, and a book about decorating my house.
This week I have started a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating for months: Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith. Anyone who knows me will tell you what a devoted Jane Austen fan I am. I have read all of her books multiple times, have watched most of the film and TV adaptations (some of which irk me for various reasons as I’m finicky about adaptations actually being faithful to the book), and have even read a couple of biographies about Jane as well as some of her letters.
I have had mixed feelings about retellings and continuations. P.D. James’ Death at Pemberley was only okay since she tried too hard, in my opinion, to protect Austen’s characters and it made the story kind of “wooden”. Bridget Jones’ Diary, on the other hand, was hilarious and didn’t take itself too seriously so it worked.
I have only just started Emma, but I could tell almost immediately that I’m going to like it as a book, even if the retelling of Austen doesn’t work for me. Here is a quote from the third page which has already pulled me in and told me that this is going to be a delightful read:
“‘My son,’ said his mother with a certain pride, ‘ is a valetudinarian.’
That sent her friends to the dictionary, which gave her additional satisfaction. 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.”
The humor, as always, is gentle and understated, but appeals to me every time. Alexander McCall Smith is also great at understanding and poking fun at our human failings. I am just enough of a word snob that sending my friends to the dictionary on occasion would give me satisfaction, too, so I identified with this passage.
What about you? What are you reading this summer?