I Could Write a Book
by Karen M. Cox
Adalia Street Press
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic
Pub Date: 9.19.17| Pages: 287
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
eARC provided by author for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”
Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.
I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered, and predictable, if a bit confining.
Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who has come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.
Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.
Rich with humor, poignancy, and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set in 1970’s Kentucky? Oh, now that did sound curious so I really wanted to read it. Karen Cox did not disappoint making Jane Austen’s version of the controversial ‘It’ girl engage the reader’s attention and then affection when paired with the noble and gentlemanly man about town George Knightley.
Couple the 1970’s period in mid-America with Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, which has one of Austen’s most forward-thinking ‘modern’ heroines and it was an engaging piece of women’s fiction. A young woman comes into her own between the tradition of the past and the promise of the future. The author settled her characters so that they were immersed in the times and felt authentic as a result.
I Could Write a Book‘s Emma was breezy and confident in her outlook. The world is her oyster and she’s got it all sorted. Until she doesn’t.
As the story unfolds at a gentle pace with an alternating narrative between heroine and hero, the reader sees what Emma does not. Because her nearest and dearest dote on her and she has never spent much time away from this atmosphere, she starts to believe what they all indulgently and proudly say- Emma is smart, sophisticated, skilled, and right. And they are not entirely wrong. Emma is all these things, but she is also untried, naive, and bases her triumphs on very little, as George Knightley attempts to point out to her. She senses this a little because she is uneasy around other superior women like George’s ladyfriend who is a doctor with her own successful career. She is more than uneasy around professional actress, dancer, and singer, Jane Fairfax.
I appreciated the writing skill that brought Emma along through her flaws and growth period in such a way that I could get behind her as a heroine I wanted to see succeed and triumph. Emma has it all with looks, status, and wealth so it can be tricky writing her as a sympathetic character. I felt a good balance was struck with the author’s George Knightley, too. He was perfect, but not too perfect. He doesn’t stumble around in the dark like Emma, but he has to learn to fathom his own heart, nonetheless.
The surrounding cast of characters resembled Austen’s characters, but also had originality. Kudos for the correlation of class difference through education and region, but also the inclusion of ethnic diversity. I was particularly taken with how Frank and Jane were described and their story played out. There was complexity and fun surprises with all the cast.
In summation, it was a faithful rendering of the classic tale, but engaged the reader with delightful originality from plot, to setting, and to characters. Fans of Austen are shoe-in for this, but I think fans of women’s fiction and romance should give it a go as well.