I don’t *love* many classics, but I do love Jane Austen. I didn’t read anything by her until I was in my mid-twenties. I started with Sense and Sensibility and I wasn’t really a fan, but I wasn’t going to give up on her. I continued by reading Pride and Prejudice and Emma and I was SOLD. Emma is one of my favorite books of all time and I think about it constantly.
But that’s not exactly what this post is about.
Today I want to talk about Austen adaptations or Austen-adjacent content because I’m fairly new to the world of Austen-related things but there are a few that I really enjoy and I want to share three of them today. I was partially inspired by Sofia at Bookish Wanderness and her post “Ranking Jane Austen Screen Adaptations” so please go check out her blog!
The retelling that Sophia mentioned that inspired this post is Bride and Prejudice. Clearly a Pride and Prejudice retelling, this Bollywood film follows Lalita as she meets several suitors including the American Mr. Darcy. This movie made me laugh so much! I liked seeing the ways they modernized the original Austen text and the musical numbers were so extravagant and fun. Also, for fans of the TV series Lost, it was fun to see Naveen Andrews as Charles Bingley.
Another Pride and Prejudice retelling I enjoyed is Longbourn by Jo Baker. This story takes place during the same timeline as Pride and Prejudice but follows the servants who work for the Bennets. I know some people don’t like seeing a different side of the Bennets, but I think Baker does some interesting work in showing all of the things that have to be done so that the Bennets can remain in relative comfort. Baker does not shy away from the sometimes disgusting reality of the work Sarah and the other servants have to do. I also appreciated (and wrote a lengthy paper about) the difference in the way Austen and Baker portray the soldiers. Showing the “behind-the scenes” of classics can be a way of making people aware of what had to happen in order for things to be the way they are. I won’t talk about this adaptation here but the 1999 Mansfield Park film does a good job of this, as well.
The last thing I want to talk about is not based on Pride and Prejudice and is not a retelling. It’s a science-fiction story about time travelers who want to recover one of Austen’s missing text and, potentially, save her life – The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn. I was a little skeptical about this book because I am not a sci-fi girl but I did enjoy the historical references to Jane Austen’s personal life and the romance. I don’t want to say a ton about one particular element I enjoyed, because spoilers, BUT the main character, Rachel, is Jewish and that plays an interesting role in the story. It’s been a little while since I read this and I would love to pick it up again when my physical TBR is a bit more manageable but I do have positive memories when I think back on my initial reading experience.
I have definitely read and watched other Austen adaptations that I would like to talk about here so if you want to hear about those in the future, let me know! Also, do you have any Austen-adjacent or Austen retellings/adaptations you particularly enjoy? I need more!!