Adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels sometimes seem as common as those of Shakespeare’s plays, but there is certainly no shortage of Austen-ites eager to read them. The most recent addition to this collection in Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, a charming update of Pride and Prejudice, in which sisters Liz and Jane Bennett, both moderately successful New Yorkers in their late 30s, return home to Hyde Park Cincinnati to assist their aging parents, and inadvertently, of course, find love. Here’s a list of some other notable reinventions and celebrations of Austen’s regency-romances that keep reader’s crazy for Jane:
Bridget Jones’ Diary, by Helen Fielding: This hilarious debut novel from Helen Fielding stars a 30-something modern London woman attempting to find “inner poise” and a stable boyfriend . Through Bridget’s sharp, witty diary entries, a modern social structure is revealed and analyzed and then thoroughly rejected, both vigorously and inadvertently with generous nods to it’s predecessor, including an eligible but misanthropic character called Mark Darcy, (played, of course, by Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones movie.) Though the book was published 20 years ago, it still resonates for readers.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Graheme-Smith: The title pretty much says it all for this one: Elizabeth Bennett and co. must battle the onslaught of zombies after a plague has fallen upon their English country village. The author combines Austen’s original language and text with lines befitting the Walking Dead.
Clueless, directed by Amy Heckerling; starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacy Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd. This classic film of teenage life is firmly representative of mid nineties culture, but actually owes it’s twisting hilarious, romantic plot to Austen novel of the early nineteenth century. The original ditz with a heart of gold is Austen’s Emma, a young aristocratic beauty whose primary hobby is ensuring a suitable match for her friends.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffery Eugenides: English major and Austen loyalist Madelaine Hanna is forced to rethink her devotion as she comes face to face with the structuralists and post modernists of the Brown University literature department in the 1980s. Will her Romantic ideals hold up against the rigid academic scrutiny? Is it possible to be a feminist and an expert on the Victorian Marriage Plot?
First Impressions, by Charles Lovett: Through modern-day bibliophile and Jane-ite Sophie Collingsworth, Lovett delves into a mystery of the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen’s personal life and loves. Though not technically an update, this story provides a loving celebration of the author that continues to captivate so many readers.
Among The Janeites, by Deborah Yaffe: And speaking of devoted fans, check out this journey through the wild and very real world of Jane Austen obsession. Yaffe, an Austen fan herself, examines everything from the collective quest for the perfect regency ball gown to groups devoted to meticulously analyzing every detail of Mansfield Park. Readers of this book will not easily dismiss Jane Austen as romantic fluff again.