Books, Review

About Books #69: Badly Done, Emma Lee

You know I’m always in the mood for a good Jane Austen-retelling. Every book of hers I’ve read, I’ve loved, and the same can actually be said for all the retellings of her work. Well, with one exception. I have not yet been able to make my way through Emma. I don’t know why – logic dictates I should like it, after all. However, I just can’t get through it. I do know  the story – don’t worry – I read the sparksnotes, saw Clueless… And now, well… Now I’ve also read Badly Done, Emma Lee. And I might just have to go take another look at Emma!

The story

Spoiled, stylish, socially connected Emma Lee Maxwell has spent her life in the idlest of pursuits—attending debutante balls, organizing sorority mixers, and acting as Charleston’s unofficial Gossip Queen.  But when her family’s fortune suddenly dwindles, Emma Lee realizes her days as a Lowcountry Princess are numbered.

When she discovers that she’s inherited her aunt’s cottage in Surrey, she hightails it to England, nurturing fantasies of polo matches and jaunts to London. . . . Instead Emma Lee is surrounded by spinsters and sheep farmers, and spends her nights reading her aunt’s old Jane Austen novels. So when she’s invited to join the local chapter of the Austen society, she reluctantly agrees. But the novel Emma inspires an epiphany: She will put her people-pleasing ways to good use by becoming the village’s very own matchmaker! And she’ll start with three local brothers . . .

There’s just one skeptical, handsome, charming challenge: the oldest brother, Knightley, is stubbornly insisting Emma Lee abandon her well-meaning ways and focus on making a match of her own—with him . . .

The opinion

I loved the set up as a Jane Austen-retelling, especially because all the *necessary cast members* are there! What’s even better? Some plot lines from the original are not held too closely (like the success of Emma’s first match) and some characters are given more (seperate) lines.

Apart from that, the execution of the setting was… Well, I can’t describe it as anything but excellent. Basically, Leah Marie Brown really made me want to be there as well. And in a way, I even felt as if I really were there. I certainly could picture the abbey, the ruins and the village perfectly well!

All of that, basically, pertains mainly to the set up. Now, let’s be fair – the set up is about 75% of the book. After that? Well… I honestly wondered whether maybe they ran out of paper. Maybe the story got away from the author? Either the way, the last quarter of the book could honestly have lasted at least twice as long.

At least that way, each character would have been given a decent ending and more closure. Whereas earlier in the story there was this great introduction to all the characters, a build-up for their personalities… And then suddenly, they all are forced together in a haphazard way. So the ending now? It just seemed very much rushed and not really sustained by what came before.

The rating: 3/5

Here’s the thing – I really liked the first 3/4 of this book. Had the end been developed as well as the rest of the story? This would have easily been a 4+ star read for me. The tone’s just the right side of light, the main character’s intelligent, witty, and quite fun to follow, the side characters are well-written… It’s just a pity that what could have easily been the piece de resistance for this entire book? Was instead turned into something rushed and slightly undercooked. As long as a quick ending doesn’t bother you, though? This is definitely a great retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma! (find it on Goodreads!)

-Saar