Eligible – by Curtis Sittenfeld

12 07 2017

If you saw this on the shelf in a bookshop/library/supermarket/etc you’d be forgiven for having no idea that it’s part of The Austen Project!

This is the first time one of the authors has changed the title of their book. I’m not entirely sure why they did it, but who am I to judge? I think I’ve enjoyed this one the most so far. Some of the previous books have just modernised by throwing in facebook and mobile phone references, but this one had a full blown revamp.

Liz is 38 and a writer for a magazine, Jane is 39 and a yoga instructor, and they live in New York, but have had to go back to the family home as Mr Bennet has a heart attack. Lydia, Kitty and Mary are in their 20s and still living at home and pretty much just living off of the family money. Chip Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy are Doctors/Surgeons, and Chip has recently become famous on a reality TV show called “Eligibe” which is essentially The Bachelor. The Collins subject is dealt with by changing him from a cousin (which was fine to marry in those days!) to a step-cousin (technically fine, but still a bit weird), which seemed like a really sensible change to make.

They don’t stick religiously to the plot either. I won’t ruin this with spoilers but there are two separate characters that take a story line each of Willoughby’s character from the original, there’s IVF, a LGBTQ subplot, and as already mentioned, reality TV – definitely a long way from Austenland, and yet, while you’re reading it, you don’t feel far off at all.

Mr Bennet is still the same wonderful man, and definitely one of my favourite characters with some of the best one liners.

“My dear,” said Mr Bennet, “if a sock puppet with a trust fund and a Harvard medical degree moved here, you’d think he was meant to marry one of our girls.”

“Plenty of men don’t want children.” Mr Bennet took a sip of coffee. “I’m still not sure that I do.”





Emma – by Alexander McCall Smith

25 11 2015

I was excited to read this entry in the Austen Project, and see how McCall Smith had managed to modernise this story, particularly as it’s been done successfully before in the 90s film, Clueless.

Sadly, I don’t think this book did as good a job. Yes the English is modernised so it’s easy to read, and Emma now drives a mini, but she still lives in a 14 bedroom house and has a governess – even if they do comment how unusual it is for this day and age, why do it?!

I quite liked that Emma had been to Bath Uni, as that’s where I went, but it sounds more like she went to Bath Spa as she did a “decorative arts” course!

It was a fun book, the characters are generally exactly as they should be, but I just don’t think the modern day aspect came across which was a shame. If you were just reading it as a book with no blurb and no pre-conceptions then of course it was great!

I’m looking forward to seeing who they’re going to get to write the next one in this series now, I believe Pride and Prejudice is due next!

emma





Sense & Sensibility – by Joanna Trollope

10 06 2015

sense and sensibility

This was my second adventure into The Austen Project having read Northanger Abbey last year. This means I’ve now got back up to speed, having started with the second book, then the first, am so an now ready to go onto Emma next which I’ve just bought with my birthday money! (Though there’ll most likely be something to break up the Austen first…

So again, the story’s been brought up to date, Elinor Dashwood is an Architecture student, Marianne isn’t just a feeble 19th Century lady but suffers from severe asthma, Colonel Brandon is called “Bill” and Willoughby, “Wills”. There’s also an excellent twist later on to bring one of the plot items up to day, but I’ll leave that for you to find out for yourselves! That all said, a lot of the story still felt like the original Austen. There was still so much about inheritance, about marrying for money, and so much in the way of still slightly formal language, I’m not sure it was stretched as far as it might have been.

I really enjoyed the story, blitzed the second half, but no matter what era I read this book in, the whole way through I will always picture Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet et al, from the incredible traditional film version! This time I just put them in modern dress in my head, but it was still those familiar faces!

I’m not sure if this modernisation is as strong as Northanger was, but I still loved the book, and am very much looking forward to reading the next one!





Northanger Abbey – by Val McDermid

24 10 2014

This book was my first venture into The Austen Project, where 6 current authors have been tasked with updating Jane Austen’s most famous novels. This is actually the second part of the project, with Sense and Sensibility being published by Joanne Trollope first, but this is just the one I grabbed in the supermarket to read!

I’m a great fan of Austen, but in all honesty, I’ve only read two of her books: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The rest are on my bookshelf and to-read list! But I’ve seen TV and/or film adaptations of them all, and love the stories that she writes.

The premise of the original is a girl who loves Gothic fiction and gets this a bit twisted with reality, being invited to join family friends in Bath for the season, and then making friends with people who live in Northanger Abbey, which sounds like something out of one of her books…. and I won’t spoil it with further details.

But that’s Austen, and this is someone else! For the most part I really enjoyed this book. In this edition, we have a home schooled girl who is into vampire novels, and her neighbours offer to take her to the Edinburgh Festival, and the plot follows similarly, we end up visiting Northanger Abbey and wondering what secrets lie within.

I think on the whole the updating of the book worked really well (although, as with any of these re-writes, it wouldn’t be anything without the story it was based on of course). That said, some bits really irritated me. There was a little too much mention of facebook, twitter, phone apps, and trying to get on the WiFi. Yes, this is a modern book, but it was a little too frequent and distracted from what was going on. Similarly some references to the Twilight series, which I worry might not be long term enough to last in this.

But what really bothered me, was references to other Jane Austen books she’d read. I think that if you’re going to write a Jane Austen based novel, you should probably assume the characters don’t know about the other ones – it’s not like the original novels references each other! Maybe I’m just being picky, but it bothered me when this happened!

northanger abbey