Friday, December 15, 2017

My obsession with Jane Austen adaptations & retellings

Tomorrow would be Jane Austen's 242nd birthday - if she hadn't died at the too young age of 41, and of course if people lived to be that old....

My fellow Austenite Heather suggested a month where we read lots of Austen themed books and I jumped all over that. I suggested her birthday and it just so happened to be the very next month so we thought why not! There are so many Austen related things in the world, and I love them all. except mansfield park, sorry not sorry Jane.

Let me tell you all about my Austen obsession, just in case you weren't aware of it already. Once upon a time, I was obsessed with Keira Knightley. You'll notice I use the word obsessed a lot, and that is because I don't ever really just like things. I'm either meh, or full blown getting things tattooed on my body obsessed. I'm sure it's not healthy, and they normally fizzle out eventually (no Keira tattoos). Anywho, there I was with my Keira obsession and a new movie was coming out with her in it - Pride & Prejudice. I didn't live under a rock, I knew it was a book, I knew who Jane Austen was and I was already a Bridget Jones fan. I knew I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie, so I did. I bought my copy from Angus & Robertson for like $8 which was a bloody bargain for a book back home, let me tell you. I still have that copy because I am a sentimental fool.

So I read the book, not ashamed to say I understood about half of it. Watched the movie and I think I transferred my obsession from Keira to all things Pride & Prejudice. After seeing the movie, I understood the book more, so I read it about 75 more times just to really soak it in, saw the movie that many times (I had no life and a friend who worked at the movies) and I am 0% exaggerating. You don't even know. 

Of course, you only have to be in the P&P world for .2 seconds before someone mentions that the 2005 is a piece of crap compared to the 1995 version with Colin Firth. I personally stand by the opinion of shut your damn mouth and they each have their own pros and cons, they are each good for different reasons and for different audiences. They both take their own approach to the characters, the story, even the costumes. I love them both, but there's no denying the 2005 movie is not a 6 hour time commitment. 

Now, I'm not going to outline the rest of my relationship with Jane because it's been like 13 years since I first cracked that spine and I went through lots of different phases and obsessions with her other books, all the tv shows and movies, and all the variations or spin offs. 

But one thing has never changed - I am not what one would call an Austen purist. I am not looking for books and movies to be exactly what Jane would have written or wanted because... spoiler alert, she's dead. I want other people who love her books as much as me to write the screenplays, direct the movies, write variations, retellings and silly spin offs where you get sent back in time to hang with Jane. It is such a lovely feeling, knowing other people love her books and want to create something for me to enjoy. Pride & Prejudice is over 200 years old and it's still relevant, people are still talking about it, writing about it, loving it. That is amazing to me.

Honestly, all it takes is a mention of something Jane Austen related and I love whatever I am watching or reading. I read a book recently and there was seriously one line and it said they were reading Pride & Prejudice for their book club and I could not handle it. Another time, in The Fortunate Ones there is a line about the character feeling like she was told off like Emma and Mr Knightley. Badly done Emma, badly done.

So yeah, one little mention can make me love a book, but when I'm actually reading a retelling or variation? SOLD. Like, I think I have only ever hated one. I just love them. I have a weird obsession (seriously, so many obsessions) with watching movies or tv shows based on books, even if they aren't very good or I didn't much like the book. So I can't turn down anything based on any of Austen's books.

Pride & Prejudice
Movies & TV
Of course, my love started with the 2005 version and it will always be my favourite for that reason. But I also love the 1995 version - it is definitely more true to the book, but hello, it's a 6 hour commitment (because I HAVE to watch it all at once). I've also seen the 1940 and 1980 versions. I am a fan of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, Bride & Prejudice, Bridget Jones, Lost in Austen, Unleashing Mr Darcy, Death Comes to Pemberley and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries just to name a few.

If I had a guilty pleasure, it would be Pride & Prejudice retellings or variations. I can't get enough. Boy meets girl, they don't get along because they misunderstand each other, other stuff happens, happily ever after - what more could you want?

To name a few that I have enjoyed - Bridget Jones, Austenland (love the movie too!), Eligible, Unleashing Mr Darcy, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, First & Then, The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy. I have a special place in my heart for Abigail Reynolds books though purists definitely don't seem to like them.

Then there are so many other books and movies out there that you could compare to P&P but they don't come right out and say it. Any kind of misunderstanding romance or enemies to lovers? I mean.. sign me the hell up. There's also books or movies that say they are related but I don't exactly connect them in my head - like You've Got Mail.

As far as I know, there are only 2 versions of Persuasion out there - one from 1995 and one from 2007. Hands down, my favourite is the one from 2007. The guy that plays Wentworth? Be still my heart. Love him.

So, I have a really hard time saying which Austen is my second favourite after P&P. I love them all so much. But there is no denying that in terms of retellings - Persuasion is the most popular, after P&P. It just translates SO well to being retold, modern or not. Boy and girl meet, fall in love, girl is a bit of a doormat and is persuaded to make a choice she doesn't want to make, 8 years later... happily ever after. I absolutely adore Persuasion the original, but lord I love me a good Persuasion retelling.

Like For Darkness Shows the Stars, Persuading Annie and A Thousand Letters.

My favourite screen adaption of Emma is the 2009 version with Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai.  I think she is absolutely fabulous as Emma. I will be honest and say I think I saw the Gwyneth Paltrow one way back in the day and have no desire to watch it again, but I will watch Clueless any day of the week.

There is also Emma Approved - by the same makers of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.. I haven't watched it yet because I am waiting for when I really need a binge/have a spare billion hours to do nothing but watch youtube videos.

I haven't read a lot of Emma retellings - only one that I can think of - Wasted Words - and that was just last week. There is this one, in the same 'series' as Eligible but I don't know anyone who liked any of the books in that series besides Eligible.. and I think I loved Eligible because I am a sucker for P&P. It takes a lot for me to hate something P&P related.

Northanger Abbey
So I have only seen one movie version and it is hands down my favourite.. well, I say that about all of them. I love it. I haven't read any Northanger retellings, purely I think because they don't exist and it's not a story that translates well to modern retellings anyway. I did read one in a short story collection just the other day and really enjoyed it so maybe I am wrong.

I don't mind though, because I get my fix from the movie anytime I want it. Love Felicity Jones and JJ Feild so much - JJ is also in Austenland and I can't handle my love for him.

Sense & Sensibility
With all the others, I have a clear favourite version, but with S&S, I love the two main ones equally. In one, we have Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman - I mean, perfect. Kate Winslet is great too, though I could honestly take or leave Hugh Grant. The other more recent one (2008) doesn't have any big names but .. I don't know, it just feels fantastic. I feel like they got the casting right, the story - everything. I love it.

Then of course there are the more recent cheesy ones (or KC just calls them schlock) like Scents and Sensibility, or From Prada to Nada. Material Girls is also loosely based on S&S.

I've only read one S&S retelling as far as I can remember, and it was okay. Honestly, like Northanger, I just don't think it's something that translates well to modern retellings.

Then of course we've got things like Miss Austen Regrets, Becoming Jane or The Jane Austen Book Club - book and movie - that aren't exactly adaptions or retellings, just somehow Austen related and I love them too.

I think sometimes when my obsession rears its ugly head, people think I want them to like Austen too. I don't. I don't care if you do. We all like different things and that is perfectly okay. But I do love when I find other people who love it as much as me. That's always fun.

I have a bunch more Austen related books to get to, trying to knock out quite a few this month with Heather, but I hope people never stop writing them and I never stop reading them. And I will never be opposed to watching a movie or tv version, so I hope they keep coming too.

Here's the next few Austen related books on my TBR:

The Jane Austen Project (currently reading), Longbourn's Songbird (love this author), By The Book (Persuasion!), The Forgotten Book, The Austen EscapeEpic Fail, Definitely, Maybe in Love and Pirates and Prejudice (what? I like a little ridiculous in my life).

So, for those of you I didn't lose immediately with the Austen title, have you read or seen any of these? Did you like them?


  1. We read Emma in school and I loved it. It took awhile to get used to the slow moving pace after being used to other books at the start! Like I remember there would be several pages just describing inviting someone for tea! I loved the world she created though. I actually enjoyed the Emma movie with Gwyneth. And Clueless is great of course! I love the Colin Firth Pride and prejudice movie but yeah I also liked the Keire knightley one too. Sense and sensibility was great, I watched it several times. I liked Becoming Jane. Was sad though!

  2. I wanted to read all the Austen novels, but it's just not for me. I have Emma in the bathroom downstairs and I've started it, but it's tedious. I think a better alternative for me would be to watch the movies, then read the books, so I can understand what is actually going on.

    I'm with you over the Kiera version of P&P. Not that I've seen the other version, but I just love that version so much I don't think that any other version could replace it. I mean, the ENDING. Mrs. Darcy. <3 <3 swwwwooooon.

  3. Love this! I agree that anything related to Austen automatically has me a bit intrigued!

    Pride & Prejudice & Mistletoe was one of the cutest (& shortest!) Books I read this year.

  4. P&P is definitely my favorite Austen novel -- and the 2007 movie is the only one I've seen. I do like Colin Firth but I don't know if I can commit to 6 hours ... might need to try it though. :)

  5. lol sorry girl; you know that I've tried to read those classics but just can't get into them (and i've tried!!). please don't unfriend me.

  6. I remember when I first discovered your blog I was so excited because someone else was obsessed with Pride & Prejudice too (though my obsession was just the movie (2005), I think it's the only one I've seen multiple times in the theater), then I realized you were actually obsessed with all things Jane Austen, lol. I remember wanting to watch Death Comes to Pemberley, but I never did so I should see if I can find it on Amazon.

  7. YES TO ALL OF THIS! I became a huge Austen fan after watching Mansfield Park one day. Then I watched all the BBC versions back in 2008 when PBS did a Masterpiece Austen series where there was a new Austen film shown every Sunday afternoon. I have them all on DVD and I have watched most of the films you listed. I also have read a lot of the books but it looks like I need to add to my list. I also loved Mr. Darcy takes a Wife as a sequel to P&P. Persuasion, Mansfield Park and P&P are my favorite Austen books. Jess at Just Jess

  8. I'm starting a new day zero list next year and one of the items on my list is to read 10 classics - Jane Austen takes up about half of that list, haha! I loved Material Girls and had no idea it was loosely based on Sense and Sensibility. I also saw Scents and Sensibility on Netflix a while back and loved it (husband made fun of me but I don't care, it was cute!). Definitely adding some of these re-tellings to my list :)

  9. The only Austen I've ever tried has been P&P (original book) and Bridget Jones's Diary (movie). I didn't get through either of them... And I think I'm scared to read different variations because Jane Austen just seems so intimidating, lol. Maybe if I watched the movie and read other stories I'd understand it all a little better. I have ample respect for Jane, but I haven't gotten into the stories. I'd like to, though!

  10. So you're saying I need to read the book?!?!!?!? ;) This was such a fun peek into your P&P world.

  11. I'm not a classics fan but I appreciate your fanaticism so much. I think it's fantastic.

    The only pop culture parallel I know of Jane Austin to something modern is the movie Clueless as a sort of retelling of Emma (like how 10 Things I Hate About You is a modern telling of The Taming of the Shrew (I think))

  12. Hooray for all things Jane Austen! I love how you broke down everything :)

  13. I’m like you and love so much that’s Jane Austen but when I first read the books I didn’t fully understand them. I read Emma for the first time a year or two ago and still didn’t quite get everything. I haven’t watched the 6 hour P&P version in forever but I might have to while I’m on maternity leave. I have the time!

  14. Something I'd love to change about myself is that I wish I liked the classics.
    I have tried to read every book you mentioned here and I just couldn't. I also can't do Brontes and similar books so it's not Austen-specific. I do ADORE the Keira Knightley P&P. I even own it.

  15. Yay I love this post! I'm hoping to get one up on the weekend. :) happy birthday to Jane! I'm so grateful to have a fellow Austen fan in my life and you know I agree with a lot of your favourites here! I love quite a few of the retellings I've read. Northanger alibi is the one northanger one I've found... It is on my shelf from the library right now. I'm a bit burnt out on the retellings this month but I am still looking forward to adding them in next year! Ps I love the 2005 P&P and I am overdue for a rewatch so maybe this weekend.

  16. I have a few of these on my to read list! I’ve never read a retelling or whatever but I’m looking forward to it!!

  17. I love you love Jane Austen so much. I'm scared to even try to read her. I have enough hard time with the movies, but I did love the zombie version

  18. Bah I love this! :) Pirates & Prejudice?! I'm pretty intrigued...! Can you believe I didn't see Bridget Jones until I was done with college?! I'm just in love with it since I've seen it though. Also Bridget Jones's Baby. Of course. I have only read P&P and Persuasion. Of each of them I have only seen 2005 P&P (I also love!) and 2007 Persuasion. Which was great. I want to re-watch Persuasion and read more Austen. It needs to happen. I have now saved a few of these books and bumped up a few that were already on my TBR. I think the only re-telling or Austen related one I have read/watched is Austenland. I much prefer the movie! But shame on me, didn't know it was a book when I watched. I also loved the Lizzie Bennett Diaries and have seen some of Emma Approved. KC wasn't as into that one, because yeah, he often watches whatever I'm watching with me. :P Emma is SO annoying as a character for me, but less annoying in Emma Approved than Gwenyth. The only Emma I've seen. I need to read it so I can watch the BBC version. I know it's not Austen... but have you seen the Little Women trailer for BBC/PBS? OMG! Looks soooo good! :) Truth be told I read it in high school and ran out of time to finish it (slap on the wrist!) and knew the ending well enough to write my paper/pass tests because I'd seen it since my childhood with my mom. ha Love that you guys are doing this! :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  19. You had me at JJ Field!! I LOVE HIM!!!

  20. "Except for Mansfield Park" HAHAHA you are hilarious lady! I love both the P&P movies too - you are right, they each have their own special thing about them. And I love the adaptations too - I remember seeing Bride & Prejudice and thinking it was such a fun lighthearted movie! I need to see the Emma version you are talking about...I've only ever seen the Gwenyth one. Also, Becoming Jane was heartbreaking.

  21. I have enjoyed every Austen I've ever read (except Mansfield Park) but I'm typically not a fan of retellings. That said, I did quite enjoy Bride and Prejudice but mostly because it was filmed down the road from where I grew up, and it was funny seeing a place in rainy England dressed up with a couple of palm trees pretending it was in LA.


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