Modern Takes on Pride and Prejudice

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Modern Takes on Pride and Prejudice

The first sentence of Pride and Prejudice is: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The works of Jane Austen are as popular as ever, and in the past few years many new adaptations of Pride and Prejudice have been released. Like the original, they are stories of terrible first impressions, and eventually, love. The following list focuses on the best modern re-tellings of the classic novel released in the past three years -- and the first lines of each indicate the spin each puts on Austen's novel. 

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up.” Zuri Benitez is seventeen years old, living in Bushwick when her life turns upside down. The Darcy brothers have just moved into the house across the street after its renovation into a mini mansion. As the Benitez family becomes entwined with the effects of gentrification in their neighborhood, Zuri rails and fights against it the only way she feels she can: hating the Darcys, especially Darius, who she finds stuck up and entitled. It’s hard to do when your sister Janae is in love with Ainsley Darcy, and the expanse of your world gets bigger as you begrudgingly get to know Darius better. This adaptation excels in the way that Zoboi seamlessly weaves modern issues of class, race, gentrification and cultural identity with the original plot.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
“Well before his arrival in Cincinnati, everyone knew that Chip Bingley was looking for a wife.” After failing to find love on the reality show Eligible, Chip Bingley moves to Cincinnati where he meets the beautiful, quiet and charming yoga instructor Jane Bennet, and her very different sisters: Liz, a women’s magazine writer and self-reported “great judge of character;" Mary, who is perpetually getting college degrees and ignoring her family; and Kitty and Lydia, who are obsessed with Crossfit and being as crass and offensive as possible. Like in the original, Bingley begins to fall for Jane, and sparks fly between Bingley’s best friend Darcy and Liz as they clash over every subject under the sun. But when secrets are revealed and true feelings shared between our couples, a happy future is at risk. This version of the classic is as funny, cheeky, complex and absurd as modern life can be.

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.” In this book, the action takes place in Pakistan in the year 2000, and follows the original plot very closely. We have the five Binat sisters Jenazba, Alysba, Marizba, Qittyara and Lady, the handsome Fahad Bingla and his even more handsome friend Valentine Darsee, and the nefarious Wickhaam. All the players have their places, and the level of detail given to daily life, culture, dress and food in Pakistan rivals and even exceeds the level of detail Austen gave in her original novel. This is lush retelling, but it also excels in describing the emotional challenges between men and women who like each other, yet cannot share their love due to social constraints and differences in class.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.” This interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, unlike the others, deftly transfers the qualities and characteristics of Elizabeth and Darcy among the two heroes: rich and entitled Dr. Trisha Raje, and grounded yet proud chef DJ Caine. It is not simply that the genders of our main characters are reversed, but each share the mistakes, terrible first impressions, pride and prejudices of the original book in intricate and interesting ways. This book is high in romance and drama, with mouthwatering descriptions of food that will leave you hungry for more.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.” Much like Pride and Prejudice, Ayesha at Last is a tale of two people falling in love despite their prejudices, terrible first impressions, and family challenges. When Ayesha and Khalid, who upon first meeting have negative impressions of each other, are forced to work together at a conference, they learn that their judgments of each other might have been unfair as their hearts begin to soften. Yet happily-ever-after is not guaranteed, as Ayesha has a secret that will affect her relationship to Khalid, and Khalid’s mother is planning an arranged marriage for him. This reinterpretation of the classic deftly weaves the obligations of family and being true to one’s faith with the intense pull of love and desire.