Did you know that there are literally hundreds of books inspired by Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice?” Everything from Modern day re-tellings like “Bridget Jones’s Diary” to unofficial sequels like "Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues" and expanded paranormal tales like "Pride, Prejudice and Zombies."
While there are versions out there of women who are not Elizabeth Bennet, most of the inspired texts cast Fitzwilliam Darcy as the love interest and hero. There are even stories about Modern day women who somehow stumble into Austen’s literary creation where Mr. Darcy falls in love with them. The reason? As much as we respect Lizzie Bennet, root for Jane & Bingley, and despise the horrible Wickham…every girl who has ever fallen in love with this book, fell in love with Darcy. (If this is not true for you, I’d love to hear what you fell in love with) I have had many discussions with fans of the novel and films where someone asks the question ‘Where is my Mr. Darcy?’
Darcy is the quintessential Romantic hero. He’s a bit of a jerk, he’s pompous and he’s so rich he can look down at everyone else with reason. He is shy, a great big brother, and a socially awkward. Darcy is willing to admit when he is wrong and most importantly he is capable of righting those wrongs. Did I mention he is rich and will completely ignore the opinions of his family when it comes to marrying the woman he loves? Darcy is not perfect and it’s his imperfections that make him the perfect fantasy hero.
It is Darcy’s charm and his complicated relationship with the strong willed Elizabeth Bennet that brings not only readers and authors, but also filmmakers and moviegoers back to this story over and over again. Below is my list of favorite adaptations inspired stories.
Best true to Austen Adaptation:
A true book adaptation should probably always be broken up into more than one film or made into a mini-series or TV show. So much happens in a book, we’re taken on many rides and meet many people. There isn’t enough time in a 2 hour film to give us a true adaptation. In 1995, the BBC produced what is probably the best retelling of Jane Austen’s classic. They wrote all the characters, took us to all the locations and went scene by scene beautifully. Colin Firth in his first appearance as Darcy alongside Jennifer Ehle who plays a beautifully charming Elizabeth Bennet, is gold. And let us never forget Colin Firth’s wet shirt.
Best cinematic adaptation:
Director Joe Wright’s “Pride & Prejudice” is stunning with beautiful locations, follows a very classic storytelling strategy and relies heavily on performance to entertain the audience. While it is not a true retelling, in the sense that it cuts out sequences, locations and characters, it is probably the most entertaining. Most books do not adapt well to cinema, because part of what makes a book so great is what goes on inside the heads of the characters. Most films just cannot bring that to life. What’s great about the 2005 version is that it took some very strong liberties. It cuts in half Bingley’s family and houseguests. We don’t need more than one sister to get that the Bennet’s are not quite up to the rich societies standards. While Firth’s Darcy is legendary, I love Macfayden as Darcy. He brought an awkward and socially inept Darcy to life. We see a version of Darcy that does not dance, because he’s too shy to speak to strangers. He is a man who completely sabotages his marriage proposal, because he doesn’t know the correct things to say. Suddenly, Darcy is more than prejudiced; he’s a clumsy geek who doesn’t know the right way to approach a girl. Love it. I also think Knightley is the best Lizzie, she brings a sort of rogue, feminist warrior to the part. Not sure if that’s what Jane Austen was going for exactly, but I loved it.
Runner up: Pride & Prejudice (1940) starring Greer Garson and Sir. Lauerence Olivier
Best “I am a HUGE fan of Austen” adaptation:
Lost in Austen is about an average modern day British young woman, who finds she’s swapped places with Austen’s fictional creation Elizabeth Bennet. She runs around Longbourn making a mess of everything. The characters end up marrying the wrong people, Mr. Collins is even more disgusting than we imagined and with Elizabeth Bennet in the real world who is Darcy going to fall in love with? This mini-series is literally every girls dream. Who doesn’t wish they could take a trip to Austen’s England, hang out with the Bennet sisters by day and fall in love with Darcy by night? This film is four episodes of absolute delight. A must see for an Austen fan.
Runner up: Austenland by Shannen Hale
Austen and the Supernatural
Fave quote: "5 daughters and no Ninjas. I never heard such a thing!"
I listened to an audiobook of “Pride, Prejudice & Zombies” while going to the gym. I find that audiobooks make the workout less tedious. I was mostly interested in how zombies could possibly fit into my favorite classic romance. The answer is surprisingly well. I absolutely love this book. Seth Grahame-Smith, does such a beautiful job of not only inserting zombies, but effectively altering the characters so that they are not only true to Austen’s original work, but completely make sense in their capacity as zombie hunters. This book is well done and just really over the top entertainment.
Best Modern Day Retelling
And the film
After seeing the 1995 BBC mini-series and reading the book for the first time, I became obsessed with “Pride & Prejudice.” I watched and read everything I could get my hands on that was remotely connected. I became obsessed with Colin Firth and had to watch “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and its sequel “The Edge of Reason.” That wasn’t enough. I wondered how close the movies were to the books and how close the books were to Austen’s original work, so I read both books. I love Bridget Jones. I do. I think it’s so well done. It is “Pride & Prejudice,” but it is also “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” There is enough nods to Austen’s book, to keep us all happy, but mostly it’s about a girl in her 30s who wants to be married. It’s a sweet love story. It also has a great reworking of Mr. Wickham in the form of Hugh Grant’s immoral Daniel Cleaver and the ever-handsome Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. If you haven’t seen Bridget Jones, go, now, see it!
I haven’t brought myself to read any of the sequels. No matter how awesome the writer, I cannot imagine that they could possibly reach Austen’s heights, so below are just a list of films that I think fans of “Pride & Prejudice” will enjoy.