15 Jane Austen Retellings To Read & Watch If You Need Some Wit & Romance In Your Life
Today marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, but even though the classic romance author stopped writing over two centuries ago, readers are still clamoring for more. Although the beloved author can't put pen to paper to create a new novel, the best Jane Austen retellings give fans the chance to enjoy her work over and over again.
From straightforward movie adaptations to young adult reimaginations to modern retellings for the web, Jane Austen's work has been made and remade countless times. Whether it be their relatable heroines, their heartwarming romances, their subtle feminism, their subversive politics, or just their hunky love interests, Austen's stories have become among the most popular read and retold stories in the English language. Even today, 200 years after her death, readers are still hungrily gobbling down Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park as fast as they're ripping through those same novels' retellings.
And why shouldn't they be? Austen's books are classics for a reason. Her characters are richly imagined and undeniably empathetic. Her plot lines, whether it be about lost lovers or feuding family members, are absorbing and entertaining. Her love stories are timeless, and whether they are being read in their original as they were intended or being experienced through a modern musical on the big screen, they continue to touch and change the lives of Austenites everywhere.
So break out your tea set and put on your white gloves, because here are 15 of the best Jane Austen retellings, in honor of the author's death 200 years ago.
'Eligible' by Curtis Sittenfeld
Pride and Prejudice gets a modern makeover in Curtis Sittenfeld's masterful retelling. Set in modern-day Cincinnati, Eligible follows the Liz and Jane Bennett, two New Yorkers who return home to their crumbling childhood home to care for their sick father and try and put their family back together. Of course, two handsome new strangers, Chip Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy, throw a wrench in their plans, and a hilarious and heartwarming romantic romp ensues.
'Emma: A Modern Retelling' by Alexander McCall Smith
It may have the same name, but Alexander McCall Smith's Emma is a wholly new story. In this contemporary romance, Emma Woodhouse returns home to take care of her widowed father and start her own interior design business. While she is there, she's thrilled to find plenty of people to play matchmaker with, and even more to give romantic advice to, and in true Austen fashion, hilarity of the highest sensibility ensues. A fun, sweet, and satirical take on a classic readers know and love, Emma will give fans a new appreciation for an old text.
'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' by Seth Grahame-Smith
A wholly fresh take on the classic romance, Seth Grahame-Smith's now classic Pride and Prejudice parody is among the best and most creative retellings out there. Recently adapted for the big screen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes Austen's original text and splices is new, exciting scenes filled with blood, guts, and zombies. A funny take on a serious classic, this is a must-read for anyone looking for a new and comical perspective on Austen's work.
'Sense & Sensibility' by Joanna Trollope
In this modern retelling of Jane Austen's novel by the same name, Joanna Trollope imagines the Dashwood sisters living in the modern-day, but facing the same classic problems: money, family, and loss. This is the perfect update to an old classic, and Sense and Sensibility will delight fans by bringing new life to an old story.
'Jane of Austin' by Hillary Manton Lodge
Hillary Manton Lodge;s recently released retelling offers up a healthy serving of humor, charm, and sweet tea. In Jane of Austin, sisters Jane and Celia Woodward lose their beloved tea shop in San Francisco following the fall of their father's business. When Celia comes up with a plan to relocate to Austin, the whole family, including their kid sister Margot, head to Texas to start over. But once they get there, a rift starts to divide them that only grows when a romantic stranger enters their lives.
'Seeking Mansfield' by Kate Watson
Another new addition to the growing library of Jane Austen retellings, Seeking Mansfield is a young adult adaptation of Mansfield Park. In it, 16-year-old Finley Price wants nothing more than to be a successful producer, if only she had the guts to make herself visible to the world. With the help of her best friend and the son of her new guardians, Oliver, Finley is beginning to think she might have what it takes — that is, until Emma and Harlan Crawford, two movie stars, move in across the street and threaten to ruin everything Finley is trying to build.
'Longbourn' by Jo Baker
In her bestselling novel, Jo Baker brings readers back into the world of Pride and Prejudice, only this time, through the experiences of the help. Longbourn follows Sarah, an orphaned housemaid of the Bennets, as she tries to navigated the increasingly complicated world she inhabits. When a mysterious new footman arrives on the scene, maintaining the balance becomes even harder. A thought-provoking novel about the mostly unseen world behind the Regency drawing rooms, Longbourn demands you view Jane Austen's world in a whole new light.
'Becoming Jane' (Film, 2007)
Although it is not a retelling in the strictest sense, Becoming Jane is a unique biographical romantic drama that combines the real life of Jane Austen and details from her classic romance, Pride and Prejudice, to create a never-before-told tale of the author. A beautiful love story that will make Austen readers swoon, this movie will change the way fans see their favorite writer.
'Bride & Prejudice' (Musical Film, 2004)
If you've ever wondered what Jane Austen's stories would be like set to song, find your answer in Bride and Prejudice, a 2004 musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha. A fun and romantic film following the love lives of four daughter in an Indian family, this Bollywood-style film is fun, upbeat, and perfect for a summer afternoon viewing.
'Lost in Austen' (TV Series, 2008)
What would happen if a modern girl was thrown into the world of Jane Austen? A whole lot of drama, that's what. In Lost in Austen, a four-part television series, a young woman finds a portal in her bedroom that leads to Longbourn, the Bennet's household. When she finally meets the real-life versions of characters she has known and loved from Pride and Prejudice, her influence over them has disastrous results. Cue the love triangles!
'Love & Friendship' (Film, 2016)
Based on Jane Austen's epistolary novel Lady Susan but titled after the author's childhood story, Love and Friendship is a must-see for fans who aren't as familiar with the lesser-known Austen story. Starring Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan, the movie follows the wannabe matchmaker as she manipulates her way into a marriage for her daughter and herself. Filled with the same kind of scandal and romance that makes Austen's originals so great, Love and Friendship is a treat to fans looking for something other than Pride and Prejudice retellings.
'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' (Web Series, 2012-2013)
A retelling for the internet age, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a web series told in the form of vlogs by Lizzie Bennet, a grad student living at home with her family. When a rich med student and his friend William Darcy move in across the street, her once calm world is turned on its head. In true Pride and Prejudice fashion, drama, romance, deceit, and betrayal follow.
'Bridget Jones's Diary' (Film, 2001)
Sure, Bridget Jones's Diary was a book retelling first, but nothing beats the lovable, quirky Renée Zellweger film. Based on the Helen Fielding novel by the same name, Bridget Jones's Diary is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, staring Colin Firth as Mark Darcy and Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver, a devilish Wickham-inspired character. It's a fun romantic comedy that has grown into a beloved film franchise Jane Austen fans can appreciate.
'Death Comes to Pemberley' (TV Mini-Series 2013)
A BBC television series based on P.D. James' bestselling mystery novel based on Jane Austen's classic characters (did you follow that?), Death Comes to Pemberley is a must-watch for Elizabeth and Darcy fans. Set six years after the events of Pride and Prejudice on the eve of Pemberley's annual ball, the dramatic series follows all your favorites, including the Bennet sisters and Mr. Darcy, and more, as they try and solve an intriguing whodunit threatening to destroy estate. Filmed in breathtaking locations as beautiful as Austen's own descriptions, Death Comes to Pemberley is a fun retelling you will want to binge.
As if I would make a list of Jane Austen retellings and not include Clueless. A modern reimagination of Emma and now every 90's kid's favorite nostalgic film, this Alicia Silverstone classic is filled with so many great one-lines, iconic outfits, and memorable feminist moments, I like to think it would have made the original author proud.