Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Review: 'Emma and Elton - Something Truly Horrid' by Alexa Adams

Emma and Elton: Something Truly HorridI decided to read this book as one of my adaptation-reads during #AusteninAugustLGR this month. I have a fear of adaptations, especially when the original is a book by a favourite author. I usually run for the hills when I see Jane Austen adaptations but I have decided to be strong this year. I figured Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid would be a good place to start, since Emma is one of my least favourite Jane Austen novels, so any major deviations wouldn't bother me too much.
Few heroines evoke such diverse emotions as Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, for whom readers profess everything from disdain to devotion. In "Emma & Elton", Alexa Adams explores what might have befallen the supercilious Miss Woodhouse if she were made aware of Mr. Elton's affection prior to his proposal. This short story was first published on Adams' blog in tribute to Halloween, and though you'll find no ghost or ghouls gracing its pages, tenderhearted Janeites be warned: here lies "something truly horrid".
I always thought of Emma as one of Jane Austen's harshest novels. Although I haven't read it in ages and my knowledge of it is therefore very limited, I felt that Emma is Austen's only character who has to be saved from herself by a man. Elizabeth Bennet independently realizes she has been very proud and prejudiced, as does Mr. Darcy. They don't have to spell it out for each other. Similarly, in Northanger Abbey Catherine learns that her faith in Gothic novels and her overactive imagination need to be tempered. Although Mr. Tilney helps in that realization, she herself is a very active part in her growing up. Emma on the other hand, in my eyes, often seemed to be on the brink of disaster, were it not for Mr. Knightley. This short story by Alexa Adams draws that into the extreme but I wonder whether this ending is any more horrid than what Austen conjures up in the original.

Not to say that Emma doesn't have its beautiful moments and great characters. I enjoyed reading it, but mainly because I felt the same way about Emma as I think Jane Austen felt about her. She is too frivolous, too focused on herself and too naive. Where Adams, in this story, brings a relatively swift end to the story, Austen stretches her story out and allows Emma to make sacrifices for her friends and family, thereby growing as a person. That this is, in some ways, all for the sake of Mr. Knightley, soit. Whether the combination of Emma and Elton is so horrid, apart from the fact that Mr. Elton made me want to tear down walls, is only the question because Emma is not at all changed. Rather than this being something horrid for her, Adams' story would be a horror for the others in Emma's village.

Something Truly Horrid is only a short story so it's quite difficult to say something about it. However, the plot overall was good, largely following Jane Austen's novel except for the few deviations here and there that allowed for the truly horrid thing to happen. However, where Austen is a relatively distant narrator, in the sense of that she doesn't write in first person and is generally the moral authority that hovers over the characters. Adams seemed to get a lot closer, which allows for a bit more insight into Emma. Since I don't like Emma as a character very much, I got relatively annoyed with her. But there were quite some moments that were funny and for being the short read it was, it was very enjoyable.

I give this short story..

3 Universes.

Adams writes a short story which is a lot of fun if one knows the source material. She doesn't bring enough to the table independently to allow for this short story to stand on its own. I would recommend this story to people who are Jane Austen and especially Emma fans. For others it will not have the same attraction. I enjoyed reading it but I doubt I will be rereading it at any point.

1 comment:

  1. Hm...doesn't sound terribly tempting. Sequels and adaptations have to be REALLY good to make me want to read them. There aren't many of those!