In the last few years, as part of the Austen project, Harper Collins have commissioned well known novelists to rework Jane Austen’s completed novels. Four of these have already been published. Joanna Trollope’s version of Sense and Sensibility, Val MacDiarmid’s Northanger Abbey, Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma had garnered mild interest, curiosity and some criticism. In India it was so mild that the first two never managed to make it to the Bookshop shelves. Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma did make it to the book stores but only because he has a dedicated reader base for whom the charms of either Edinburgh or Botswana haven’t waned and who were curious enough to see what he made of the home counties. Not that any of the three books re hashed did anything better or even close to what the originals had achieved. In fact, Emma was, in our opinion, disgraceful. Jane Austen must have turned so much in her grave that Winchester Cathedral’s foundations have probably destabilised.
And now it is the turn of Pride and Prejudice, the most famous as we all know, of Austen’s books. More than famous it borderlines on obsession with a lot of people. And we were hugely amused to note that the version by Curtis Sittenfeld, curiously enough with a different title (it is called Eligible) is immediately available in the book shops. Which just goes to show that P&P, in any form, sells.
PS: It would be interesting to know on what basis the publishers assigned authors to the selected novels. I wonder if Curtis Sittenfeld felt she had drawn the long straw or the short one as the expectations from Pride and Prejudice would always be higher.
LL: I don’t think she had any reason to worry. The things that have been done to that poor book boggle the mind. It’s almost as if people can’t stop writing versions of it. You only need to check the Goodreads page on Sequels/Variations/Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice to get an idea of how people just can’t get enough of it.
PS: There are of course the more famous ones like ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ by P.D.James which was also adapted for television. More because of P.D.James, I thought, rather than because of any merit in the sequel. And of course recently there was ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’!
LL: Some of the titles are totally hysterical. Like ‘Prada and Prejudice’ and ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star’…
PS: I like ‘Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens’ best.
LL: So why is it that, despite countless TV adaptations and re-writes, people can’t seem to get enough of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley and all the rest of them?
PS: It is obviously a book striking a deep chord in our psyche or perhaps it is the brilliance of Jane Austen, or both.
LL: I think it also has something to do with the opening line which has been quoted, misquoted, re-quoted ad nauseam.
PS: Funnily enough Ursula K Le Guin in her scathing review of Eligible used a quote from Emma to say “It was badly done”.
LL: Since we haven’t read it yet we cannot agree or disagree but despite all that we have discussed so far we couldn’t resist adding our names to the wait list in the library.