The Austen Project: rewrite or rewrong?


austen prog


by Nicola Hoban

Book lovers around the world are preparing themselves as a much-loved classical series is being taken and transformed from its nineteenth century form into the prose of the twenty-first century.

The Austen Project set out to pair six contemporary authors with the six Jane Austen novels: Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. The aim of each novelist is to take their assigned tale and, following the basis of the plot, put a new spin on it and make it unique in a modern day fashion.

Launching the project, the first story to be released is Sense and Sensibility written by worldwide bestselling author Joanna Trollope, which comes out this month.

Joanna Trollope said of the project: “It’s hugely exciting to attempt the reworking of one of the best novels written by one of our greatest novelists. This is a project which requires consummate respect above all else; not an emulation, but a tribute.” As an author, Joanna Trollope’s has released best-selling novels including The Village Affair, The Rector’s Wife and The Choir.

The Austen project will continue with Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey in Spring 2014, followed by Curtis Sittenfeld’s reworking of the classic Pride and Prejudice in Autumn 2014. The publishers Harper Collins have yet to release the names of those tackling the other three titles.

When I first found out about the Austen Project, I was terrified for the sake of Austen’s much-loved classics. I am a huge fan of the nineteenth century author, particularly Pride and Prejudice – I own all six books of her books, plus an additional copy of Northanger Abbey, two additional copies of Pride and Prejudice, as well as owning all six in Kindle form. Therefore, I would loathe to see Austen’s works butchered as they are transformed to include twenty-first century slang, discluding Austen’s wit and sharp insight into social conventions. However, I would hate it even more if the new contemporary authors tried to imitate Austen’s style; they simply wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

One of the most cherished authors of English Literature, fans of Austen have met the news of the Austen Project with mixed reviews. Whilst some seem eager to read a fresh and new version of the old-fashioned stories, others have said that they wouldn’t touch them and would always prefer the timeless classics. As someone who has read a snippet of Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility, I can say it doesn’t sound as awful as I first imagined it would. These authors are clearly fans of Austen’s work and would never have joined the project if they hadn’t felt that they could do the stories justice.

So I will withhold my review until I have actually sat down and read the first installment, because if nothing else it will be an interesting read, and if it encourages the younger generation to pick up the originals then that can only be a good thing.


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Deputy Editor, Content - 2013/14

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