… fans of Jane Austen’s novels have increased exponentially since Colin Firth strode across the small screen as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 A&E production of Pride and Prejudice. Although without a doubt one of history’s most beloved, widely read novelists, Jane Austen’s books have experienced a surge of interest in the past fifteen or so years, thanks in part to a handful of acclaimed film adaptations.
Are you curled up in your What Would Jane Do? t-shirt, daydreaming of Pemberley, re-reading your battered copies of Austen’s works and lamenting that she wasn’t a more prolific writer? Fear not, your local library is here to help!
For the purist, who prefers their Jane Austen untampered with and isn’t keen on the idea of offshoots, here are a few suggestions. Claire Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life provides a serious, yet gently humorous, look at Austen’s life, focusing heavily on her friendships and family. If you haven’t read Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels, give them a try. Like Jane Austen, she had the ability to create engaging characters and vividly bring to life the English countryside, and her novels add a glimpse into England during the industrial revolution. Many fans feel the romance between John Thornton and Margaret Hale in North and South rivals that of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. For lighter fare, Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels have been delighting readers since they were first published in the 1930s. The Grand Sophy is a wonderful place to start if you’re new to the world of Heyer.
Mystery loving Jane Austen fans may appreciate Carrie Bebris’ books featuring the newly wedded Darcy couple solving crimes, beginning with Pride and Prescience. But maybe it is Jane that fascinates you, more so than her characters? Stephanie Barron has Miss Austen herself as sleuth in Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, first in a popular series.
Perhaps you’re the fan who wonders, “Yes, but what happens to everyone after the novel ends?” These authors feel the same way and are here to tell you their version of events. Julia Barrett explores a future scenario for Georgiana Darcy in Presumption and gives Margaret Dashwood a chance at love in The Third Sister. Joan Aiken’s Lady Catherine’s Necklace features the snobby Lady Catherine de Bourgh herself, while Eliza’s Daughter tells the tale of what might have become of Colonel Brandon’s ward.
Teen readers may enjoy Cassandra’s Sister by Veronica Bennett, about a young Jane Austen growing up in the country and ultimately penning her first book, or Marvel Comics’ beautifully illustrated graphic novel Pride and Prejudice.
For the adventurous Jane Austen reader with a weakness for the quirky and macabre, you shouldn’t miss Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; in an England overrun by zombies, the Bennet sisters are sent to China to be trained in the art of combat. In Ben H. Winters Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the Dashwood girls move to Pestilent Island, after being evicted from their childhood home, and encounter savage creatures. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford is a clever, modern gothic tale that will appeal to Janeites and Twilight fans alike.
How would a modern girl fare if she suddenly woke up in Regency England? Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler and its sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, answer this question as well as the reverse: would a Regency girl survive in modern-day Los Angeles? Shannon Hale’s Austenland offers a tantalizing prospect for Mr. Darcy-obsessed Jane Hayes: a chance to vacation at an English estate complete with Austenesque actors. Will it be a dream come true, or will her Darcy fantasies be shattered by reality?
If, however, after exploring all these book options you’re really in the mood to watch Colin Firth and company, Fontana Regional Library has film adaptations of all five of Jane Austen’s most popular novels on both DVD and videocassette.