P D James once famously said that Jane Austen’s books were “Mills and Boon written by a genius” which goes a long way to explaining their enduring appeal, I suppose. Austen’s novels have remained popular over the years and it is she, more than any other who has inspired contemporary “chicklit” authors in tales of love and misunderstandings.
The Jane Austen Book Club (currently screening in New Zealand cinemas) is about a group of Austen appreciaters who gather to discuss her works but find that their own love lives mirror those of the characters in her novels. The recent release of the movie which is based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler prompted me to wonder – how many other books out there are inspired by the works of the fabulous Miss Austen?
Probably the most famous modern take on Austen’s work is the phenomenally successful Bridget Jones’s diary in which the regency heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy Bennet becomes the comedically mislead “Singleton” of the title. For a bit of gender role reversal of the same novel (where the Darcy character becomes a haughty American movie star) try Lions and Liquorice by Kate Fenton.
Austen’s Persuasion gets a modern makeover in Persuading Annie by Melissa Nathan and Emma got a similar treatment in the nineties with the movie Clueless. Austen’s own life get’s “novelised” in Just Jane : a novel of Jane Austen’s life. In addition there are numerous “sequels” to Austen’s novels that have been written by modern authors.
With all this reading material plus the numerous films and television series based on the original novels there’s plenty of material to keep even the keenest of “Austenites” satisfied. Certainly enough to keep a book club happy anyway…