My favorite thing of possibly EVER is hearing from people that I've helped them in any way to discover something they love. I love helping connect readers to books, and the need to do so (especially in the world of Austen) was the drive behind me starting — and actually sticking with — this blog.
When Katie contacted me this year about writing a post on how a fellow Austen lover and featured guest on AIA, the fabulous Erlynn, actually got her into reading Austen adaptations (to which she is now entirely devoted), my answer was a big, fat, resounding YES.
And my dearest hope is that now Katie's post will pull some of you into the Austen world! (Perhaps even with the giveaway that follows... ;P )
Secrets of an Adaptation Addict plus GIVEAWAY!
By Katie James
Loving Jane Austen can be a lonely endeavor for those who are living within a small –shire in Wisconsin where not everyone knows the difference between Wickham, Willoughby and Wentworth. As a lifelong Janeite, I have enjoyed introducing Ms. Austen’s stories to new audiences and sharing the love for these characters in any way possible. Be it the novels themselves, dragging loved ones to the films, or persistently sending The Lizzie Bennet Diaries links to friends, I advocated Austen whenever possible. But little did I know not all Janeite love is considered equal…A few years ago, after much cajoling, I convinced a shy friend who enjoyed the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film to join me for a university lecture on Jane Austen. The evening turned out to be quite an eye-opening experience for us both! The speaker was both well-versed and extremely critical of what she called the “tidal wave” of authors and films attempting to rewrite or use Austen’s beloved characters. My friend was actually chastised for her enjoyment of the film because of its alternate ending, and the rest of us were severely warned away from any present-day Austen alternative.
Unfortunately for this woman (who I now think of fondly as the “Adaptation Lady Catherine de Bourgh”), the lecture had quite the opposite effect on its audience that night. In a quiet group huddled outside the auditorium is where I first learned the names of a few authors who were brave enough to continue the story of Austen’s characters. I still have the program with the names “Abigail Reynolds, Linda Berdoll, Regina Jeffers, Susan Kaye, Stephanie Barron” hastily scribbled on it from that night.
A Google search for other retellings sent me straight to Misty and her delightful “Austen in August” in 2012. Erlynn’s post gave me a true feeling of kinship with those who love the many prequels, sequels and retellings as much as I do. “The Book Rat” sent me down the Austen adaptation rabbit hole and I have never looked back!
Speaking with other addicts, I now realize that my initial experience with Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) was not singular. Shunning others into downplaying the large market for retellings is commonplace within the strict world of Austen fandom. But why do so many addicts try to force on others a right way to love Jane? Can’t our favorite stories and characters be reimagined with the very wit and entertainment that she herself sought out? I have found many great stories that can!
To date, I’ve read 74 adaptations from the original works of Austen since Erlynn’s post two years ago and have learned so many things about this world. The genre in which our favorite characters turn up can REALLY vary, which seems to be the biggest divider of Janeites when discussing these stories: Should Darcy and Elizabeth do more than just look at each other longingly? Can a Young Adult book even touch the angst level of Wentworth and Anne? Why would anyone not want to see their Emma renamed Cher?
Much like my own experience with Ms. de Bourgh, I believe we can all accept these fresh takes on our favorite stories by finding the genre of adaptation we enjoy. To help, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites into five categories.
For Those Who Want to Take Austen’s Beloved Characters on a New Adventure:
My favorite of all JAFF is the reimagining of the original Austen stories. What if Mr. Bennet dies and the girls are forced to leave Longbourn? Want to see Darcy as a pirate? How about if Wentworth was really a spy for the Crown? What if the spirit of Elizabeth still heads to London after she lands in a coma? These are just a few of my favorite what-ifs:
- Mr. Darcy’s Obsession – Abigail Reynolds
Reynolds dominates this category with several creative and passionate retellings of the original Pride and Prejudice. Oh the hijinks her Mr. Darcy gets into! He’s had life-threatening injuries, gotten trapped in a flood at Hunsford Cottage, saved Elizabeth from unscrupulous characters at a house party, etc. Lots of fun! I like Mr. Darcy’s Obsession the best of the bunch because it includes plenty of the original story’s angst while killing off Mr. Bennet, marrying Jane to a Meryton local, and dragging Darcy and Elizabeth along for the ride.
- Only Mr. Darcy Will Do – Kara Louise
- Haunting Mr. Darcy – KaraLynne Mackrory
- Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy – Mary Lydon Simonsen
- A Fair Prospect – Cassandra Grafton
I won this series in a giveaway during the 2013 “Austen In August” and loved it! It’s a slow-burn story with more insights into the original characters. Darcy and Elizabeth take on Bath!
For Those Who Want to See Another Side of the Story:
We all remember the warm fuzzies we experienced first seeing Wentworth through Anne’s eyes or the joy we felt for Colonel Brandon finally winning Marianne. Would you like to see Austen’s beloved stories from another perspective? Give these a read:
- Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion – Regina Jeffers
- None But You – Susan Kaye
- Colonel Brandon’s Diary – Amanda Grange
I have enjoyed several of Grange’s wonderful “diaries” featuring Austen’s heroes, but love her take on Colonel Brandon the best. I always wondered about the reserved yet fiercely enigmatic colonel from Sense and Sensibility! Grange delivers a wonderfully heart-wrenching tale of Brandon’s love, loss and then eventual understanding achieved with Austen’s ending.
- Longbourn – Jo Baker
- An Assembly Such as This – Pamela Aidan
For Those Looking for a Bit of Steam Under the Cravat:
Ah, the smexy books. Romance is probably the most divisive genre and why Austen purists often raise their pitchforks in protest. Although there are certainly larger plot points to these books, Janeites will either love them or hate them because of their passionate elements. If you want your Darcys and Elizabeths to do (A LOT) more than hold hands, I would recommend:
- The Truth About Mr. Darcy – Susan Adriani
- The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy – Sara Angelini
Use this fun, modern take on Darcy as a county judge to keep you warm at Pemberley on those cold nights! Elizabeth is an attorney in Meryton, California that fights then falls for the stern legal-eagle Darcy. She quickly finds out that the Hon. Darcy is hiding a large family estate in England as well as plenty of sexy under those robes…HOT!
- Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife – Linda Berdoll
- Compulsively Mr. Darcy – Nina Benneton
- Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star – Heather Lynn Rigaud
For Those Who Want a Lighter Look at Austen:
Modern, fun, light-hearted reads are just as popular within the JAFF community. The best ones feature the mighty Jane Austen herself, or put her beloved characters in today’s time. I found the following to be wonderful, non-angsty escapes:
- Undressing Mr. Darcy – Karen Doornebos
- A Weekend with Mr. Darcy – Victoria Connelly
- The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen – Syrie James
You simply can’t go wrong with any of the books by James, who continues to turn out original and interesting stories featuring our favorite author. My favorite is The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen because James manages to interweave a brilliant Austen “original” story along with a present-day mystery.
- Epic Fail – Claire LaZebnik (YA)
- Austentatious – Alyssa Goodnight
The Others I Just Can’t Live Without:
There are several books out there to help keep Janeites on point, in the know and part of the overall Austen love. These are the books I often give as gifts and use as reference material. I just adore:
- Dating Mr. Darcy – Sarah Arthur
- The Jane Austen Handbook – Margaret C. Sullivan
- Cozy Classics: Pride and Prejudice – Jack & Holman Wang
This is a board book and my baby shower gift staple! Simply adorable and perfect introduction to Austen.
- Among The Janeites – Deborah Yaffe
- Jane Austen Junkie – Susan J. Brown
I have to give Brown credit for single-handedly keeping me afloat as I drift through the hundreds of Austen adaptations out there. Published in 2013, this little black book offers the names and information of several retellings, complete with check boxes to mark them off as you go. Looking for a retelling or sequel? Brown will help you find them! She needs to update this annually to keep up with all the great new books out there too!Katie is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to two lucky winners to purchase your own Austen adaptations! Post the title of your favorites and why you love them in the comments below for your chance to win. Open to readers internationally too! Ends September 6th, 2014.
|Click the button or HERE to return to the Austen in August main page!|