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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Y U NO Write Other Adaptations, Austenites?

As Anna mentioned earlier in her post about Austen variations, the only stories that seem to get the sequel treatments are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, with the emphasis being on P&P.  Anna and I were discussing why this is, and she mentioned that an author she spoke to actually had to self-publish her novel because she was told by editors that there wasn't a market for books based on the rest of Austen's work.
This seems strange to me, so I though we could have a chat session to see why that is, or if it's even true.

I hadn't really thought about it until this spring, when the box of review books I received from Sourcebooks all had Darcy in the title (except one, which had Wickham), and my mom asked "Who the hell is this Darcy guy?"
I thought it was funny at the time, and we laughed and I chalked it up to Sourcebooks only selecting P&P books to send me, or only having P&P books coming out right now, etc.

But then when I was looking over Anna's list of her favorite variations, I noticed that they were all based on P&P or Persuasion, and that got me thinking about the ones I've read or own -and the list is a short one.  They pretty much all fall into 3 categories:

That's it.  No one seems to tackle the other novels, either to rewrite them from a different POV or with different plot points, or continue them, prequel them, etc.  They go largely ignored.

So why is this?  Are the other novels complete and best left alone?  I guess the case can be made the Emma is complete, and that nothing much changes: Knightley will still be with the Woodhouses all day, but now he'll be sleeping with one of them, and Miss Taylor is now Mrs Weston, but that happens before the story begins, and really, nothing much changes there, either.  But then, what of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax?  Can nothing be written of their secret courtship, or their life after?  I'm sure a book about the Eltons would make for a nice light comedy... There's always somewhere a new story can be found, so that can't be the problem.

So is it lack of marketability?  Do you only want to read P&P variations, with the occasional Persuasion tossed in for something different?  I find that hard to believe, and it's certainly not the case with me.  Personally, I long to know what happens to Catherine and Henry - what's life like as the Tilneys, and are they shunned as Henry's father claims he will do, or are they welcomed back into the fold?

So I'm going to open this up to you.  Have you come across any good treatments of Austen's work that don't revolve around P&P or Persuasion (or maybe follow minor characters or do something with them that couldn't be considered typical)?
Do you want retellings of other works - is there a market for it?

Tawk amongst yahselves.

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  1. I always wondered what would have happened if Fanny Price gave Henry Crawford a chance. And how about the story of Admiral Croft and Sophie, or Mr.Woodhouse and his late wife? Those would be some amazingly romantic stories. I'd write them myself, but don't have the gift.
    I agree with you about the Tilneys too, it would be interesting to know what happens to them. I think there is definitely market, albeit small, for those kinds of stories.

  2. Yes! I always loved Henry Crawford (and Mary for that matter), and would like to see something done with them.
    And the Crofts as well!

  3. Yes, I would welcome variations of the other Austen novels.
    What about the forbidden romance of Henry Tilney's sister Eleanor? Northanger Abbey doesn't seem to get much credit. Which is a shame.
    Mansfield Park has many possibilities. What about Susan Price, Fanny's younger sister? She returns to Mansfield Park with Fanny. Shouldn't she have a little romance? And, what about the happy endings for Mary and Henry Crawford? Okay that's enough for now.

  4. I have read some variations that weren't about P&P or Persuasion. Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken is one, but it was more about Fanny's sister than a continuation or a retelling of Mansfield Park.

    I don't remember the author's name off the top of my head, but I found a book called Jane Fairfax at a library sale, but I haven't read it yet since I haven't finished Emma. I have seen a couple of S&S variations, Eliza's Daughter and Willoughby's Return.

    So I guess there are some, but I just wish there were more choices. Or maybe there are plenty of non-P&P or Persuasion variations and they aren't well marketed? I've only been reading the variations for a couple of years, so I have a lot to learn I'm sure.

    Definitely food for thought! Thanks for posting this!

  5. I absolutely loved "Lady Vernon and Her Daughter"! For me it was the best of the Austen adaptations. I love Lizzy and Darcy but there is only so much - read one about Darcys daughters and it was okay.
    I did enjoy one about Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward. She is one of those characters i always wonder 'whatever happened to...?

  6. What a great idea for a discussion. The market for P&P novels is significantly larger than the other Jane Austen novels, but there are still a selection of good books to read. And actually there are a lot of POV stories. Amanda Grange wrote one for each male hero (except Edward Ferrars), Susan Kaye wrote a series for Captain Wentworth, and Barbara Cornthwaite wrote a series for George Knightley (only book one is out right now). I HIGHLY recommend these books they are fantastic! Also there are some fun modern adaptations, I loved Juliet Archer's The Importance of Being Emma, and recently read The Three Weissmanns of Westport which was about S&S.

    I'm always on the look out for non-P&P books, old or new, because as a person reads and reviews a large quantity of Austenesque novels, I find that I sometimes can get my P&P books mixed up with each other if I read too many in a row! So I try to read a non P&P book in between.

    On my blog I have lists of all the Austenesque novels published group by book (Emma, NA, S&S) and now I'm starting to list them by genre (Modern Adaptation, Mystert, etc.) Of course there are much more P&P than anything else, but you may be surprised how many non P&P novels are out there, just not well known. If you are interested you are welcome to check them out on my blog, you might find a few titles to add to your TBR list!

  7. I'm a published romance author currently working on a Mary Bennett story which is part of a trilogy I am tentatively calling "The Regency Sisters" - one book will feature Mary, the second is Georgiana Darcy and the third is Maria Lucas. I think that the reason P&P is followed so much is the timelessness of the story and the interesting, mature characters and wide range of secondary characters. The other Austen novels, which I have read, are not as enjoyable (IMHO) and I would much rather live in the world of Pemberley than Northanger!


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