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The top ten best Jane Austen retellings


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With it being the 200th anniversary of the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, you might feel that you should read some Austen this month, but you just haven't got the time to invest in a chunky novel.

Not to worry. We've rounded up the finest modern versions of the writer's work so you can get the best of Austen in the freshest way.

LBD's Lizzie and Darcy

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

The first in The Austen Project, a programme bringing together the classic novels and modern authors, Trollope's version sees Elinor as a young architecture student, trying to look after her recently bereaved family. It follows the original story faithfully, but might tempt you in with its more modern approach.

Death comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

The crime-fiction queen produces a valuable sequel to the original Pride and Prejudice, placing it firmly within the genre she is famed for. Six years after the end of the novel, Lydia, Wickham and Captain Denny are on their way to a ball at the Darcys' house. On the way, Denny and Wickham have an argument, and Denny storms off into the woods. What follows is a murder mystery where some of your favourites will have the finger of suspicion pointed at them. You'll be gripped!

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett by Bernie Su

Bringing the world of Longbourn and Pemberley right up to date, this novel is actually a spin-off from the Emmy-award winning YouTube series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Lizzie is a graduate student; Darcy is the CEO of Pemberley Digital. The novel offers intimate insights into the characters, and you can also watch them enact the story online!

Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

Also told in a diary format, this is the original story told from the perspective of the flighty and foolish Lydia. Where Austen's narrative leaves us to fill in the blanks, Farrant takes us to Brighton along with Lydia to see what really happened between her and Wickham.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Baker offers a fresh perspective on the Bennet story by focusing upon the servants of the house. The housemaid, Sarah, has her own romances to mimic those of the sisters, and you'll find yourself equally as swept up in the romance below stairs as those happening in the ballroom.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Unsubtle as it is, it's certainly not just bonnets and balls! Taking the original text and adding in zombies and ninjas changes the whole tone of the book. You might roll your eyes, but you'll be hard pressed not to laugh and enjoy the ride.

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

Not strictly an Austen adaptation, but this hilarious fifth instalment in the Thursday Next series features an attempt to turn Pride and Prejudice into a reality show whilst Netherfield Hall is refurbished. You'll see your favourite characters "off-screen" and see Fforde bring his own inimitable style to them.

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

You wouldn't think that the author of gritty crime-novel Wire in the Blood and Austen's Gothic-parody would go together, but they really do and it really works. Moving the action to the Scottish Highlands, and imbuing Cat with a healthy vampire-obsession, McDermid brings Austen's humour and wit into the 21st century.

Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

Mansfield Park is probably one of the most-maligned of Austen's books, but Kate Watson does a great job of updating it for a new audience. Moving the action from the eponymous manor house to the world of theatre, where Finley Price does her best to remain invisible as a director. It's fun and fresh, and might make you think more favourably of the source material!

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

And of course, no Austen list would be complete without this modern classic in its own right. Based on Pride and Prejudice, Bridget is the thirty-something Everywoman who counts cigarettes, calories and her most recent sexual conquests in a way that Lizzie Bennet never would have. Yet you can't help but identify with her as she fights her way through the London dating scene and you'll definitely pick a side between Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver (for the record, I'm 100% #TeamMark).

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