This summer, I bumped into Jane Austen a few times. She’s my favorite author (like so many other women…nothing new there), and I’m a completely in love with her original novels. I love to keep them on my shelf and read them from year to year.
Occasionally, someone tries to remake the originals or modernize the classics. I’m not always a huge fan of these, so I thought I’d share the good, the bad, and the ugly.
First, if you’ve never read Jane Austen, she has written six novels that have stood the test of time. If you find yourself lost in the writing, but still want to read them, I highly recommend reading A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter which was written by a man studying Jane Austen for his dissertation. It’s a bit like a college course in all things Austen with some personal narrative thrown in. I learned a lot!
Austen’s six novels in our home
Now for the good. I really liked First Impressions by Charlie Lovett, which is a mystery questioning the true authorship of Pride & Prejudice. The novel jumps from a modern day, book-loving heroine to Jane Austen in the 1800s as she writes her first novels. It has a fairly good romance of its own and was hard to put down.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the movie, Love & Friendship, which I snuck away one weeknight to watch in the theatre with a big bag of popcorn. I laughed out loud, as there’s a character on par with Pride & Prejudice’s Mr. Collins and a lot of good one-liners. It was also entertaining to watch a Jane Austen story I’d never read before. She’s known for her witty but subtle take on everyday life, and this story was no different. The director, Whit Stillman, reinterpreted and expanded an early story of Austen’s called Lady Susan.
For the bad and ugly, I quit reading Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, which was on my summer booklist, after about five chapters. The translation of Pride & Prejudice to modern day America was completely ugly. I guess the romance was lost for me with the addition of curse words, The Bachelor, Crossfit gyms, sleeping together, and backyard barbecues. It was making me mad to think of ruining a book I loved, so I ended up just returning it to the library unfinished. Two thumbs way down.
So, what do you think of remaking old classics? Which updates do you love or hate? Have you read Austen’s original novels? I’d love to hear!