The Emily Game

‘Next time we have friends round,’ I tell the fiancé, ‘we MUST play The Emily Game.’

‘Don’t be stupid,’ he replies.

‘I’m not being stupid! It’s the best game ever. It’s so much fun.’

‘We can’t ask people over and insist on them playing a game all about you.’

‘No you nitwit, it’s not all about me, it’s just named after me. It’s all about books.’

‘Emily,’ he says, his voice taking on a sterner tone, ‘we are not going to play The Emily Game.’

Well, just in case you should be coming round to ours anytime soon, and feel like playing The Emily Game (we can wait till he’s not in the room, so he need never know), let me explain how it came about.

This weekend was my hen weekend. Everything about it was kept Top Secret, to the extent that I was blindfolded for the final half hour of the car journey and then taken to a strange provincial tearoom, filled with china cats and even sporting an anti-foreigner sign, while sinister preparations were being made in my absence.

I returned to the mystery location to see a parade of my closest girlfriends lined up underneath bunting made of Penguin covers and pages of books, and a big sign that announced:

Emily’s Literary Hen

How glorious! How extremely clever. First there was the literary bunting, then the literary drinks menu, including such classics as ‘The Scarlett O’Hara’ – Southern Comfort, cranberry juice and lime – complete with the quotation:

‘Don’t drink alone, Scarlett. People always find out, and it ruins the reputation,’ Rhett Butler.

Then we moved on to such baked treats as Proust’s Madeleines and a Gingerbread House, followed by a dinner taken straight out of A Room of One’s Own.

But I digress, for the most important bit of the weekend was surely the invention of The Emily Game.

This took place at the end of the Woolfian dinner. Everyone began to look a bit shifty over their crumble and then the Maid of Honour announced it was time for The Emily Game.

‘How long does she get?’ asked one eager chicken.

‘Let’s say a minute.’

‘No, thirty seconds.’


‘Help!’ That was me. ‘What do I have to do? What is The Emily Game?’ I feared that everyone would do cruel impressions of me. (In fact, that didn’t happen till later in the weekend, and then, more precisely, it was a rather inaccurate mime of my recently-discovered talent for performing a spontaneous saxophone solo – with no saxophone.) But no, the rules of The Emily Game are as follows.

  1. In advance of the game, each person – except for Emily – has to prepare a prop which suggests a book.
  2. Each person takes it in turns to present her prop to Emily.
  3. Emily then has however long to ask yes/no answers about the prop or book to deduce what book it might be.
  4. If Emily succeeds, everyone else has to drink. If she fails, she has to drink.
  5. Variation: I suppose it doesn’t just need to be Emily who guesses, but people could take it in turns to guess/present their prop.

For instance, some train tickets were Anna Karenina. A bottle of TCP, with labels carefully replaced with ‘Medicine’ and a list of various ingredients including ‘Horse strength throat lozenges, antifreeze and dark brown gloss paint’ was George’s Marvellous Medicine. My cousin Tessa, with a pillow stuffed under her top was – ingeniously – Tess of the D’Urbervilles. There was also a brilliant charade with a red petticoat for The Railway Children.

A marvellous game.

Spectacularly good fun.

I strongly recommend it for any literary parties or salons.

And, if you were to feel like bringing along a prop next time you see me, well then, I would be delighted to introduce you, personally, to the delights of The Emily Game.

Finally, can you guess the novel from the prop below?

Clue: The novel is set in India.

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11 Responses to “The Emily Game”

  1. Laura Says:

    Brilliant! Fun for Spain I think… X

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Sea of Poppies?

    and here’s one just for you: coat hanger!

    sounds like a memorable evening 🙂

  3. emilybooks Says:

    Sorry Julia, no not Sea of Poppies. Have been puzzling over the coat hanger all day and have ended up with two – albeit rather unlikely – possibilities:

    1. Paper Fashions activity book – on which there are three mini coat hangers

    2. The Man Who Wore All His Clothes by Allan Ahlberg.

    But those are probably way too leftfield. Shall keep puzzling…

  4. julia Says:

    the clue is in the name, and the ending: one of my favourites, and one that changed my life when i was a teenager 🙂

  5. Katie K Says:

    Ooh is it ‘Transmission’ by Hari Kunzru?

    My clue is: a miniature pig.



  6. emilybooks Says:

    No, not Transmission, sorry. But that would have been very good.

    Julia – I am really struggling here. Have considered The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for the fur coats… and also A Long Way from Verona for the wonderful Viyella dress moment, but fear I might need to concede defeat!

    Katie K – It must be something by PG Wodehouse, right? Or something by Shelley if it is indeed a Percy Pig, to which you are referring…

  7. Katie K Says:

    Gutted it’s not Transmission – am stumped!

    Mine isn’t a reference to Percy Pig/Bysshe (though I like your logic). It’s something of a classic text…

  8. julia Says:

    How about the Marzipan Pig by Russell Hoban? and Yey for a Long Way from Verona:

    ‘Magnificent stop Congratulations stop I was right stop Hanger’. And father said, ‘Who on earth is that? What a magnificent name. Is his first one coat? and they laughed.

    But, like at the Novelty Machine, I just felt filled with love, knowing that good things take place.

    I owe you a drink!

  9. emilybooks Says:

    Julia! Genius! I can’t believe I’d forgotten that bit!!!!! I now want to reread it … again.

    Katie – I shall keep thinking. Definitely not a PG Wodehouse Blandings novel? x

  10. Katie K Says:

    Your suggestions are much more imaginative than my original idea: plain old Hamlet I’m afraid. But very glad to be reminded of the marzipan pig!!

    What is your one?! I think it is Transmission and you have just forgotten.

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