Such images haunted her the whole night through, and she woke on the morrow in even deeper misery than she had gone to bed: more ready to see the evil before her, and with less hope of getting tolerably out of it.
(from “Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid”)
Alexa Adams’ short story “Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid” is a fun re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Emma. The story covers the period of time from when Mr. Knightley chastises Emma for persuading Harriet Smith to turn down Robert Martin’s proposal of marriage to Emma’s horrendous Christmas Eve carriage ride with Mr. Elton — the moment when Emma realizes her matchmaking efforts have failed.
In Adams’ retelling, Mr. Knightley hints to Emma that Mr. Elton’s exuberance when in Emma and Harriet’s company has nothing to do with Harriet and everything to do with his feelings for Emma. Adams answers the questions: What would happen if Emma realized Mr. Elton’s intentions early on? What would happen if Emma’s foolish attempts at matchmaking and her anger and annoyance at the Knightley brothers get her in over her head?
“Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid” paints a portrait of a Jane Austen novel gone horribly wrong. It’s an outcome I never imagined before and one that was worth considering, if only for a split second. I liked how Adams adopted an Austenesque tone and how Emma’s thought process was detailed so readers can understand her actions. I know some readers won’t feel bad for Emma here, as she is often viewed as an unlikeable heroine, but Emma is my favorite Austen novel and I’ve always liked her, so even when my heart went out to her, I was thoroughly amused.
My only complaint with the story is that it was too short. I would love to see Adams flesh this out to a novella or even a novel. Even though it’s a cringe-worthy plot, I must admit I was intrigued and really want to know how it eventually played out. Until the carriage scene, it seemed pretty close to the original, so it feels like the story ends just as it’s getting started. Even so, Adams grabbed my attention, and I think the fact that I longed for more emphasizes that it’s well written, imaginative, and definitely worth giving a try.
Disclosure: “Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid” is from my personal library.
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