The Austen Project

9780804172417_p0_v1_s192x300On Friday, we shared our review of Eligible, which I really loved.  Eligible is a modern version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Curtis Sittenfeld took that story, written originally in 1813. and gave it a 21st century twist.  It was a fun update, and one I enjoyed reading.  I loved Sittenfeld, and she wrote this as a part of the Austen Project.  The Austen Project is something a few writers took on, including Sittenfeld, updating some of Austen’s best works.

At first, I was just excited about reading Sittenfeld’s latest book – but I had no idea it was part of the Austen Project.  Since getting Eligible from Book of the Month club, I have picked up the other books in the project.  There are 6 books that are a part of the project, and so far I’ve read 4. 9780007587827_p0_v3_s192x300Two of the books have yet to be published, but I’ll be excited to read those too.  The two books in the series that aren’t out yet are versions of Persuasion and Mansfield Park.  Here’s what’s already out:

Emma – Alexander McCall Smith  I am a huge fan of his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and was excited that he would take on this retelling of one of Austen’s most influential books.  This book famously inspired the movie Clueless, but Smith’s Emma is anything but clueless.

Northanger Abbey – Val McDermid Of all the Jane Austen books I’ve read, somehow I had never read this one. As part of the Austen Project, I read Val McDermid’s version, which was updated from the original.  Like Austen’s other work, it’s kind of a romance, though McDermid is known more of a mystery writer.  I liked her version, and it made me want to read Austen’s original – putting that on my TBR list.

9781400068326_p0_v3_s192x300Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld Eligible is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. The premise of the Pride and Prejudice story here hasn’t changed. The cast is the same, it’s just updated.  There is a Mr. Darcy, who is coy with his affection for Elizabeth Bennet (Liz). This is my favorite book in the series.

Sense and Sensibility – Joanna Trollope This is probably my least favorite of these four books.  This is one Austen story that I enjoyed, but in Trollope’s version there is no “sense”.  It stays somewhat true to Austen’s, with some modern updates.  In updating the story, some of the details don’t seem to fit.  Trying to stay so close to the original story, while inserting 9780062200471_p0_v1_s192x300modern elements seems odd.  There is no real originality in the retelling.

Whether or not you’re an Austen fan, you can enjoy these books.  Wether told in the early 19th century, or in the 21st century, these stories are somewhat timeless.  There will always be love, always romance, and devoted readers.  I’ve enjoyed reading them, though I know that not everyone has.  Reading through several reviews of these books there are some who love them and some who hate them.  Some Austen fans don’t want the original stories changed.  Others are excited that there are new ways to connect with Austen.  Most importantly, the new versions are attracting some readers who were not Austen fans (like myself).

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