After Austen

Georgetown LibraryStaff Picks

After Austen

A List of Jane Austen Retellings

My introduction to Jane Austen began the summer before my sophomore year of high school when one of the books I could choose to read for school was Sense and Sensibility, which I found highly enjoyable.  I was immediately prepared to read more of Austen's work, particularly since my mother had always loved watching adaptions of it.  She even persuaded me that it would be okay to watch Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood retelling of Pride and Prejudice, before reading the book.  Since I'm a total bookworm, it wasn't long before I started diving into novels that retell Austen's stories.  Check out this list of some of my favorite retellings of Jane Austen’s work.

Most people know the story of Pride and Prejudice: the tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy learning how to bring out the best in each other, Lydia’s reckless decisions, and Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley’s attempts to have a happy life together.  But what of the servants in the Bennet household, those who see the inner workings of the Bennet family, yet could never hope for such social standing?  Longbourn by Jo Baker tells the stories of the cook and head of staff, Mrs. Hill, and housemaids Sarah and Polly.  When a mysterious new footman named James Smith arrives, the social dynamics of the household are thrown into chaos.  Longbourn is the perfect novel for readers looking for a blend of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey

Pride and Prejudice begins with Jane Austen remarking that many single women are in search of a husband.  In this violent and outrageous retelling of Austen’s classic, Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters are trained in the art of deadly combat, in hopes of eradicating the zombies that been overrunning England for 50 years.  Elizabeth has even gone so far as to swear off men and is determined to eliminate zombies.  When Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy, he proves to be arrogant and haughty, and also an excellent sparring partner.  Will Darcy and Elizabeth work out their differences and find true love, or will the zombies get them first?  Those wishing the original Pride and Prejudice had more action and more jokes about balls will appreciate Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Do you love the romance between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy but wish the story had a bit more mystery?  Elizabeth and Darcy have two children in the nursery, live close to Mr. and Mrs. Bingley, and are content to plan events such as Pemberley’s autumn ball.  But when Lydia Wickham, Elizbaeth’s ill-mannered young sister, arrives at Pemberley the night before the ball declaring that her husband has been murdered, Darcy and Elizabeth’s lives are thrown into upheaval.  Darcy and Elizabeth must do everything they can to sort out what happened and catch the culprit before another death comes to Pemberley.  For readers want to know what life is like for Elizabeth and Darcy after marriage, Death Comes to Pemberley is the perfect choice.

Bridget Jones is a 30-something Singletown who starts out a new year with several aspirations: work out regularly, cut back and alcohol and cigarettes, and find Inner Poise.  If she happens to find love and figure out how to program her VCR along the way, so be it.  As she works on herself, she makes lots of mistakes along the way, including somehow gaining two pounds by the end of the year, and going out with her boss.  Luckily, she has various friends and family who make her laugh and keep her afloat, especially when she thinks she potentially has found true love.  A loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice told in diary format, Bridget Jones's Diary is the story of a realistic, self-aware protagonist will have readers laughing out loud.

Charlotte Kinder has two wonderful children, a great career, and an ex-husband who just remarried, so she decides to treat herself to a vacation in Austenland, complete with a romance that is scripted just for her.  Austenland is located in Britain, and Charlotte visits Pembrook Park, where she embodies the person of Charlotte Cordial.  Charlotte Cordial spends her days sewing, going for walks, and, at the encouraging of Colonel Andrews, playing a game called Bloody Murder with the other guests.  As her time at Pembrook Park passes, Charlotte starts to wonder if perhaps something sinister really is afoot, and if she could be falling in love with one of the men there.  Readers seeking a retelling of Northanger Abbey that includes a little bit of melodrama, a lot of humor, and a dash of murder, pick up Midnight in Austenland.

Liz and Jane Bennet are both in their late thirties and living in New York City where they work as a magazine writer and a yoga instructor, respectively.  When Mr. Bennet suffers from a serious heart attack, Liz and Jane go back to their family home in Cincinnati to find that the family house is crumbling, Mrs. Bennet has a compulsive shopping problem, Mary is too busy earning her third master’s degree to leave her room, and Kitty and Lydia have devoted their lives to CrossFit, as opposed to getting jobs.  Instead of worrying about any of this, Mrs. Bennet is determined to introduce her daughters to Chip Bingley, a doctor who just moved to town after starring on a reality t.v. show called Eligible, Sittenfeld’s fictional rendering of The Bachelor.  Of course, along with Chip, the family also meets the far less amicable Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Will Liz and Jane prove to be the eligible women that Chip and Darcy hope to meet, or will their story only end in heartbreak?  For a fast-paced story that draws Cincinnati as its own character and modernizes the Bennet family in utterly believable ways, check out Eligible.

Lizzy was only seventeen when her mother died of cancer, and she dealt with her grief by moving away from her family.  Giving up her nickname, Elizabeth left her home, father, and sister to pursue a culinary career, eventually becoming head chef of a restaurant called Feast.  When Elizabeth gets stuck in a rut, Feast’s financial backer Paul brings in another chef, and Elizabeth takes that as her cue to return home to Seattle to take care of her sister Jane, who is undergoing cancer treatment.  Although Elizabeth and Jane clash at first, Elizabeth settles into a routine of cooking food that Jane can eat despite all of her nausea, and reading to her when she receives treatments.  Soon other patients are interested in Elizabeth’s food, and Elizabeth finds herself besotted with Jane’s coworker, Nick.  When Paul gives Elizabeth a chance to help open a new restaurant in New York, she must decide wether to return to the life she’s built as Elizabeth or if she’s ready to be Lizzy and pursue a new dream.  If you want to read an Austen novel that touches on sisterhood, religion and is full of delicious descriptions of food, pick up Lizzy and Jane.