Like so many other romance readers, I love Jane Austen. I love her novels in all forms: original, movie adaptations, and retellings. I’ve read countless retellings over the years, but I’ve rounded up a few of my favourites for my fellow Austenites looking for a good, Jane-inspired book to cosy up with.
Longbourn by Jo Baker
This book focuses on the downstairs life, i.e. the servants, that make sure the Bennet household has plenty of food, clean clothing, and empty chamberpots. It’s easy to forget about the downstairs contingent of an upper-class family entirely, but Longbourn reminds us that not only do those servants exist and work incredibly hard, they also fall in and out of love, form friendships, and have their own dreams for their futures, just like their abovestairs compatriots. The love story in this book absolutely broke my heart, but the HEA is so wonderful and is perhaps the most well-deserved of any I’ve ever read.
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
For many people, Emma Woodhouse is their least favourite of the Jane Austen heroines, and with good reason. She’s selfish, immature, and scores a D- in the friend department. But I love the community of people in Emma the novel, and Alexander McCall Smith manages to seamlessly reimagine that community in this modern-day retelling of the book. I will note that some readers have found this book problematic, and there is a scene where Emma pressures Harriet into doing something she isn’t into, but I think this helped to emphasise Emma’s selfishness. The book itself is full of gorgeous prose and definitely worth a read.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s hands-down my favourite retelling and does the most wonderful job translating the story into a modern timeframe. Also, Elizabeth and Darcy have sex. Hot, hot, enemies-to-lovers kind of sex. Enough said.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
This isn’t strictly a retelling. It’s a collection of Austen-inspired stories that use characters and themes from the original stories as inspiration. There’s a particularly wonderful story in here where Darcy tries to sue all the writers that have retold Pride and Prejudice because they have, among other things, divulged his and Lizzy’s sexual relationship. He blushes. It’s adorable. The book contains stories from well-known romance writers like Jo Beverly, Lauren Willig and Amanda Grange.
I’m always on the hunt for more Austen retellings, so let me know in the comments below what your favourites are. I’m also open to a discussion of the best Pride and Prejudice remake. I’m camp 2005 remake with Keira Knightley, but I am a sucker for the Colin Firth Lake scene from 1995 (you know the one).