Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson – A Review

Austen and vampires. Two powerhouse pop culture juggernauts. Mash them up and they are irresistible to publishers eager to feed on the Twilight & Trueblood craze. Here is a new novel that transforms Emma, Austen’s masterpiece of astute characterization and social reproof into a tale of Undead matchmaking blunders and vampire battles. Will Miss Woodhouse continue to be a nonsensical girl or morph into Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Once upon a time, long, long ago in Regency times there was a handsome, clever and rich young lady named Emma Woodhouse who had lived close to twenty-one years of her life with very little to vex her. She lived with her kindly old father in a big castle named Hartfield near the village of Highbury. The Woodhouses’ were the first family of consequence in the surrounding neighborhood filled with gentleman vampires. Their particular friend was Mr. Knightley whose pale skin, black eyes and fear of sunlight were attributed to his lack of sleep and dull appetite.

Miss Woodhouse was clueless that anything was amiss though the telltale signs of the Undead were apparent throughout their social sphere. The other ladies of Highbury were also un-mindful accepting the attentions and marriage proposals of the gentleman vampires without concern. Not even their children’s pallid skin and need to hunt for small animals in the nearby forest alarmed them to any measure. However, in the dark forest also lived wild vampires totally lacking in social graces who feasted upon the young ladies in Mrs. Goddard’s school or anyone else careless enough to walk too close to the shrubberies.

Oblivious to the real evils within Highbury, Emma proceeds to match make her friends to unsuitable vampires with disastrous results. Even though she has never had the discipline to apply herself to reading or drawing, or the desire to marry, she discovers quite suddenly that she is a skilled vampire slayer and proceeds to rid the neighborhood of the fiendish Undead while winning the approval and heart of the one gentleman vampire who she discovers she truly loves. And then, with all the evil vampires vanquished and her desire to be a misapplying match maker renounced, they lived happily ever after.

If this synopsis sounds like a charming fairytale of Emma with vampires added in, that was my intention. It was the novel that I wished I had read, but sadly did not. I am exceedingly puzzled by what was attempted. A retelling of Austen’s Emma for young children, or adults that need a dumbed down version laced with vampires to understand the original story?

There is an inherent challenge in retelling a classic; how much to leave in and what to take away. Wayne Josephson has used Austen’s characters and followed the plot faithfully. However, he completely rewrote 99% of the text in his own words. His choice of language is very simple and modern taking away the flavor of Austen’s beautiful prose. Even her famous quotes were axed, removing any grounding to the original text and absolutely all humor.

The vampires have been added for excitement and there were moments of surprise and occasional smiles. This dumbing down of the language and doping up with vampires could have worked beautifully if he had not taken the middle road and either made the story a fractured fairytale parodying Emma and vampires, or gone all out campy and outrageous presenting Emma a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even though this novel has been classified as adult fiction, I think that it appeals more to the young reader in middle school who will be glamoured into reading an Austen retelling by the mention of romance and vampires.

2 out of 5 Stars

Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson
Sourcebooks (2010)
Trade paperback (304) pages
ISBN: 978-1402241345

Cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks © 2010; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2010, Austenprose.com

13 thoughts on “Emma and the Vampires, by Wayne Josephson – A Review

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  1. As much as I love vampires,I really don’t think they fit into Austen’s world in any sort of reimagined way,especially into Emma.

    Frankly,if I were doing a monster mash version of Emma,she and many of the ladies of Highbury would be witches-it makes more storytelling sense,with Emma’s matchmaking easily become love spell casting(Harriet did take a couple of items from Mr. Elton that could be used for that purpose,after all!) and Frank Churchill would make an excellent warlock,in my opinion:)


  2. This sounds like a novel I can skip. I loved P&P&Z because it did retain much of Austen’s original language, which made it hilarious and original. Now that every Austen novel is being infused with monsters, it is not original anymore. I think I’m done with this trend!


  3. I just can’t jump on the bandwagon for vampires etc. I just feel it has no place in Austen’s novels especially. I think it’s kind of ridiculous and in my opinion only makes it look like these authors are out to make money off the craze. Thanks for your review. I guess I have a little bias going into the whole line but I enjoy your review of the book. Just reaffirms that I don’t need these kind of books no matter how masterfully done or well intentioned.


  4. I love JA and I love vampires but for the life of me I can’t figure books such as this one out. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is on my ‘to be read’ pile and that seems to me a more worthwhile way to spend my precious time than on something like this.


  5. I have been waiting for the reviews on this one. No humor!?! What on Earth is the point of inserting bizarre monsters into classical texts if not for the comic effect?


  6. Call me Jane Bennet when it comes to Austen and vampires, but I liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Jane Bites Back. Why, because they were fresh and funny and WELL written.

    I do not object to the concept of a parody or pastiche of Austen’s novels if they are clever and witty and do not make fun of Austen, but laugh with her.


  7. I would like to comment on this review, and all of these comments.
    Obviously, none of you read Wayne Josephson’s purpose for this book. It was aimed for young adults, by the way. Young adults’ reviews for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies included that they were somewhat confused by the original context. So, Josephson did a rewrite so it was easier for young adults to comprehend, while also, hopefully, introducing them to Jane Austen, to challenge them some more.

    Just because your age group doesn’t like it, that does not mean it’s a bad book.


  8. Margaret, thanks for your comments. I was aware of Josephson’s reason for writing this novel for his young daughter and his objective to simplify the story and language.

    I respectfully disagree. I did not say it was a bad book.

    Emma and the Vampires is being marketed to adults and is categorized in book stores and online as adult fiction. This was the publishers choice. I reviewed it accordingly. If it had been classified as a young adult or middle school novel, you would have read a different review.

    Best regards, Laurel Ann


  9. I loved this book it was as good as all the retold Jane Austen books I’ve read. But what I didn’t like is how they knew about the gentlmen having black eyes or pale skin but never thought they were vampires just ditsy when it came to that


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