Alexander McCall Smith to rework Emma by Jane Austen

Jane Austen (portrait) and Alexander McCall Smith McCall Smith said adapting Emma was "a privilege and a real challenge"

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Crime writer Alexander McCall Smith has become the latest contemporary writer invited to reinterpret the work of Jane Austen for a modern audience.

The Edinburgh-based author said being asked to write a 21st Century version of Emma was "like being asked to eat a box of delicious chocolates".

McCall Smith's take on Emma will be published next autumn, 199 years after the original's debut.

Joanna Trollope's version of Sense and Sensibility is due out this month.

Val McDermid's interpretation of Northanger Abbey will follow next year, while a new version of Pride and Prejudice by US writer Curtis Sittenfeld comes out in 2015.

The names of two more writers who are taking part in the six-book Austen Project will be announced later this year.

"Writing a contemporary version of Emma is both a privilege and a real challenge," said McCall Smith, best known as the author of The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

"Not only is Emma one of the finest novels in the English language, but it is possibly Jane Austen's most thought-provoking and interesting book."

Trollope said it was "wonderful to hear" that McCall Smith was taking on Emma, a heroine she said would "benefit" from being "handled by a man".

The project's authors have to stick with their individual novel's existing plot and characters, but are free to make some changes.

Emma tells of an immature young woman whose attempts to play matchmaker backfire both on herself and those she attempts to bring together.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale are among those to have played the character on screen, while the story was successfully transplanted to a modern setting in 1995 film Clueless.

Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility are the other two titles that will be adapted as part of the Harper Collins project, one of several attempts to adapt or continue Austen's works.

Others include Death Comes to Pemberley, a 2011 sequel to Pride and Prejudice by P D James that is currently being turned into a BBC TV series.


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