Feelings on Sequels to Jane Austen
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What are your feelings on the sequels/continuations to Jane Austen's works that are written by other authors? Has anyone read any of these?
I am very ambivalent about them. On the one hand, I suffer from the urge to explore what might have happened to Austen's characters after her novels. On the other hand, I don't read her novels exclusively for their plots (for her irony, social commentary, use of language, humor, etc.), so I wonder if any of the continuations would have the same charm as the originals.
Any thoughts on the matter?
Unless Jane Austen is dictating them from beyond the grave, which I very much doubt, I disapprove.
I read one. I won't read any more. I wanted to read more of the Elizabeth and Darcy story, but found that the story the author chose to tell actually 'tainted' my personal picture of their life. The writing also... was heavy handed and clumsy compared to Jane Austen.
Yep, learned my lesson! :-(
That's what I'm kind of worrried about, ryn_books, is that reading one of those continuations will ruin any subsequent re-reads of Austen's books for me. And I definitely don't want to risk THAT happening. One criticism I have read of these books is that they sometimes veer too far from the spirit of JA (who is generally quite discrete about certain matters) by putting indelicate things into print about what goes on behind closed doors, if you get my meaning. And in that respect, some of these continuations are more like traditional bodice-rippers than JA books. I don't think I would be interested in reading that.
I do know that there are a lot of JA fans who read them though, so I would be curious to hear what they think. I wonder if there are particular authors who are better heirs to JA than others.
Some years ago I read Emma Tennant's sequel to P&P - Pemberley. I thought in itself it was a rather weak by inoffensive novel. But as a continuation of the sparkling magic of pride and prejudice, it was a disaster. Neither Elizabeth nor Darcy were recognisable as the same characters. They had little depth and no sophisication. I did like the recreation of Pemberley itself, but that's a very small part. The worst, though, was the story. I just could not believe that Austen's characters could ever act in that way, especially after the journey they'd gone through and so shortly after their marriage.
I can stay though that it spoils my enjoyment of P&P itself: the two are so far removed that it is easy to disassociate them. Still, I'm not inclined to read any other sequels.
Perhaps I'm too much of a traditionalist, but I didn't like the alternative 'American' ending to the recent film either.
I have the same horrified attraction to Austen pastiches as I do to contemporary Sherlock Holmes stories. I recogize that the original characters are so powerful they fairly burst out of the book, but no contemporary imitation (or do I mean tribute) seems to come close. They all lack the concise and displined focus of Austen's original books. Julia Barrett's attempt, Presumption got lost in the attempt to make all the characters well rounded. Linda Berdoll's rather sexy Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife was diluted by all the extranous detail...in fact, modern writers can't seem to help but modernize Austen's characters, and that just ruins the story for me.
Rivercassini - Is that the Keira Knightly P&P? I haven't yet seen that, but I imagine I will at some point...
Thanks for this post!
At the bookstore the other day, I stood totally daunted by which 'sequel' would be both true to the charaters & well written.
I came away with nothng but confusion.
Now, I don't think I'll read any!
I'm reasonably certain that the Keira Knightly version is the one referred to. I've seen it, and yes, Jane Austen's ending has been replaced by an overly sappified one. The rest of the movie was passable -- there are some things I didn't like a whole lot, but except for the ending, I could live with these. But the ending, the ending!
>>Rivercassini - Is that the Keira Knightly P&P? I haven't yet seen that, but I imagine I will at some point...
Yep, the Kiera Knightly version. On the DVD on sale here in the UK the film itself had a 'traditional' ending, ie the one in the book, but one of the 'bonus features' was an 'alternative American ending'. Very strange.
When I was an undergraduate I wrote a "revised ending" to Mansfield Park of about the last fifty pages of the book. I had a lot of fun with it, trying to imitate Austen's style while creating the ending I wanted. I'd be up for sharing this with anyone who might be interested.
I have Mansfield Park sitting on my TBR shelf, but that sounds wonderful. I admit to having once done that myself. It was an interesting experience to try to capture the writer's style. :)
How fun! So give us a summary of what you wrote, please. How did you change it?
I wrote an essay on Mansfield Park and I found myself slipping into Austen's style as well.
#2 Strongly agree with you. I refuse on principal to read any of those books.
> 11 I'm completely intrigued: please share your alternative ending to Mansfield Park! I've always felt MP to be much the weakest of Austen's books because Fanny was such a self-effacing doormat. After I saw a recent (couple of years ago) film adaptation, where Fanny was just as quiet but much more "centered" (to use that Californianism) than in the book, I thought there might be some hope for the story. Cannot for the life of me remember the actress - can anyone help? It's the film where it's made clear that the Bertrams' money comes from the sugar plantations of the West Indies, with all their horrors.
Frances O'Connor is the actress. I agree. Fanny (in the book) never did anything. I read the book when I was a girl so my memory was faulty. After seeing the movie, I re-read the book and Fanny just never did a thing. I also think it's the weakest Austen book. But I loved the actress Victoria Hamilton who played Maria Bertram.
I've always shyed away from sequels in the past as I haven't wanted my love of Austen's books to be tainted in any way.
However, a friend recently recommended Darcy's Story to me. Its a retelling of P&P through the eyes of Mr. Darcy. I thought that it was fabulous. Janet Aylmer uses a lot of the dialogue that Austen wrote which helps make for a seamless transition between her writing and Austen's. Aylmer also fills in some of the gaps that we only heard about through other characters - ie Darcy talking to his sister about his feelings for Elizabeth. Which I think really helped round out the story. I thought that it was a wonderful companion to P&P and the book will have an honored place on my shelf next to my worn copy of P&P.
I read Letters from Pemberly the first year by Jane Dawkins-- which is an epistolary style novella of letters between Lizzie and Jane after their marriages. It wasn't terrible; but it just wasn't much of anything really. very anemic -- and put me off trying sequels.
I also tried The Jane Austen Book Club with high hopes as I bet many of you did -- what a disappointment. They barely touch on the books themselves. I would have thought the author would have anticipated many of her readers to be be big Jane fans and catered to them more. She might as well have called it 'The Book Club' -- at least it wouldn't have been false advertisement.
To #11, Mrabelard
I would love to read your ending to Mansfield Park My thoughts are that Fanny didn't have to do a darn thing & all sorts of good stuff just fell into her lap. But maybe that's the point -- In real life there might be people like that. But I'm not one of them - (sigh)
I have read all of Austen's novels, but none of the sequels. I know this doesn't happen in real life, but I always believe the main characters lived "happily ever after."
There is a book coming out next month that I am interested in: Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure. I grew up with Choose Your Own Adventure books and this one could be fun!
Tangentially: Austen's novels figure into the (wacky) plots of the Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde.
I have not read any sequels to Austen's works because I am afraid to run my perceptions of the characters. And why does everything have to be sequelized?
Re: Fanny Price, I rather like her as a character. She is not just a "self-effacing doormat;" if she were, she would have broken down and married Crawford when Sir Thomas wanted her to. She was shy and quiet, but she knew what she wanted and did not settle for the first man who asked her. She was true to her convictions.
I just don't like when Fanny is put down just because she has a different personality than Elizabeth Bennett or any of the other heroines of Austen's stories.
Even a blind squirrel will find an acorn once in a while ;-) Fanny's behavior overall is uncomfortably self-abnegating. Her refusal to marry Crawford springs, I believe, from priggishness rather than any truly noble adherence to higher standards.
Priggishness? Ouch! I don't think it was that at all. Priggishness is the concern for how people perceive you. It's trying to make yourself look good in other people's eyes. If Fanny were priggish, she would have loved to have been so successfully engaged (and before her cousin, woohoo!). She would have done what Sir Thomas and everyone else wanted, and preened herself on her romantic success. That would be the way of a prig.
I think Austen makes it clear that Fanny refuses Crawford because of her feelings for Edmund. Just as Emma's heart was guarded from insincere advances by her love for another, Fanny also is not able to accept another man's advances because of Edmund. It isn't priggishness in the least.
You might check out this link for more on Fanny: http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/austen-l.html#X14
I also think that Fanny refuses Crawford because she knows that he is not a good person, despite his attempts to prove otherwise. I have always thought that Mansfield Park was the tale of two conflicting sets of values (authenticity vs. artifice) and that Fanny's story was one about being true to yourself and not being seduced by artifice. The thing that is so interesting about this story is that Austen chooses two initially attractive-seeming characters to embody negative values and two initially annoying-seeming characters to embody positive ones. I, of course, am obviously biased in favor of my namesake.
Reaching for the Amer. Heritage Dictionary (3rd edition - love it love it), one finds 'prig' to be "a person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety, especially in an irritatingly arrogant or smug manner." I perhaps could concede arrogance, but smug ... well, one could make a case for the latter, or even both traits. (And I stand by the 'irritating' part.) I've known some women who had "FannyPrice-itis" and their behavior was certainly passive-aggressive. They were convinced of their own superiority in things social and moral, and made sure their self-sacrifice and self-denial were observed by all. If Fanny REALLY were as authentically moral as she appears to be, she would have blown the whistle on the play and outed the ghastly Crawfords, instead of letting them make hay. Complaisance in those circumstances is nothing laudable.
fannyprice, your last point is an excellent one. As they say in New England, 'Handsome is as handsome does.'
>27 stringcat3:, That's an interesting argument and one I will need to consider, but I think that Fanny really is passive, rather than passive-aggressive. She has been raised by the Bertrams as a second-class citizen and maybe she feels that she does not have the right to point out failures and foibles of her 'betters.'
The great thing about Fanny is that she is so problematic - she inspires nearly endless debate. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on some scholarship regarding Mansfield Park and then subjecting it to a re-read, to see what new insights I can gain into the characters and the story.
I interrupt this Fanny bashing (hmmn, that didn't come out right) to point all fellow Austenites (Janians? whatever) to today's New York Times article on JA adaptations, including "Being Jane" (out this Friday). In January, Masterpiece Theater "will begin an extravagant season called “The Complete Jane Austen,” with adaptations of her six novels (four of the films will be new) as well as “Miss Austen Regrets,” a biographical drama about her lost loves. "
If you get the paper and haven't made it to the Arts section yet, it's on page 12. If you want to access it online at www.nytimes.com the title is "Austen Powers: Making Jane Sexy." There are also links to a clip from "Being Jane" and to Austen-related YouTube videos.
A great quote from the article: "... however much society has changed, Austen’s heroines — unlike the Brontës’ — deal with the believable, timeless obstacles of class, money and misunderstanding, which make her works adaptable to any era. As Ms. Huff (president of the Jane Austen Society of North America) said: “Everyone thinks she’s Elizabeth Bennet; not everyone thinks she’s Jane Eyre. Everyone knows a young woman trying to decide if the guy she’s attracted to is Mr. Right. Not everyone meets a Mr. Right who has a mad wife in the attic.”
Maybe that is how you know you found Mr. Right. Check for a mad wife in the attice! If she is there, he just may be the one!
Back to the Fanny Price discussion... How do you think Austen viewed Fanny? Fanny is the heroine of the story. Do you think Austen intended her to be "annoying" or "weak"?
I also need to reread MP.
Has anyone read Old Friends and New Fancies? I just saw it on the new paperbacks table in Borders. It's supposedly the first of the JA sequels - originally published in 1911.
Wisewoman, I think Austen intended Fanny to be shown at a continual disadvantage in terms of health and wealth in order to underscore her point about making considered choices. You can be at a disadvantage in life and yet still be successful if you operate from a solid set of core values and consistently resist temptation. The Bartrams have every possible advantage and yet go off the rails because they lack that set of core values while Fanny, having them, can navigate her way through difficult circumstances (up to and including Aunt Norris).
>32 atimco:, I have really been thinking very hard about how JA meant us to view Fanny and I haven't come to any conclusions. I had never considered her as anything other than a positive, if unfortunate, figure. But something I read somewhere - probably on LT, made me consider the possibility that JA didn't intend for Fanny to be a positive character. I don't think I buy it, but it really got me thinking - what if no one in that story is supposed to come out looking very good?
>34 jillmwo:, I really like your point. It is a very thoughtful interpretation.
I think I'm going to re-read Mansfield Park; my life is in chaos so it's probably time for Jane Austen's orderly consideration of human behavior.
However, speaking of sequels to Jane Austen, has anyone ventured into the very recently published "Choose Your Own Adventure" Austen sequel? Probably the only way to *do* an Austen sequel.
I had to go look up the title of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" sequel. It's called Lost in Austen by Emma Webster. I saw it initially in Borders but ordered it from Amazon in order to get the discount.
I've read Lost in Austen. It was fun to do. It mostly followed the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but depending on your choices took you into other Jane Austen plots. I recommend keeping a finger on the page you leave in case you make a bad choice. I don't think I hit all the plot lines, so I plan to go back someday and take a different path. The main things that bugged me about the book were the illustrations. They were a bit grotesque.
I have read a bunch of Austen accessories...I don't know what to call them exactly. I don't consider them sequels, really, accessosries will do for me.
I read all Jane Austen's books so long ago and so many times. I haven't found other classics I enjoy as much, so I try the modern imitations in a mostly vain attempt to read something I really love.
I hated Linda Berdoll's attempt -- as far as I read (which wasn't much), it was mostly about how sore Elizabeth was from all the sex with Darcy. I found it terribly boring and annoying.
Pamela Aiden wrote the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy -- P&P from Darcy's view. The first and third volumes, which parallel what happens in P&P, I really enjoyed. The second, where Darcy is not in P&P, goes rather gothic IMO, and wasn't as good.
Others are hit or miss. I rarely find books I absolutely adore, but I read at least 20 books a month, so I read widely and choose rather liberally -- popcorn books, if you will. The delicious wondrous dark chocolate books -- the ones I read carefully and slowly and deeply -- those are few and far between...out of at least 250 books a year that I read, 10 might be those gems...and I would hate to miss one. Even knowing that they are likely nothing more than pale imitations of JA, I still hope when I pick one up they may surprise me. It could happen.
> 39 I feel your pain, randomarbitrary! But try Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mystery series. I know, the concept sounds ghastly, but Barron is something of an Austen scholar and doesn't have Jane doing anything out of character or anachronistic. The conceit is the same as that for many of the Sherlock Holmes pastiches: hitherto unknown manuscripts discovered and edited for modern publication. I enjoyed them tremendously, and I don't like mysteries as a rule - never read them except for Holmes pastiches and the occasional Tony Hillerman. There are seven books in the Jane series now. The first is Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, available in mass market paperback so you don't have to shell out $14 or $15.
I think I have one or two of those...it's been so long since I read them I really don't remember much -- does the first one start with the coach with Jane and her family overturning? Thanks for the recommend...I will have to add those to the books to be read pile --which I believe has hit about 87 books now. Guess I will have to give up housework and cooking and catch up on my reading...
I second the recommendation for Stephanie Barron's books. Not really sequels, but fun. I also liked Mr. Darcy's Diary. About Fanny Price. I just recently re-read MP (first read in college and didn't really enjoy it - especially compared to Austen's other novels). What struck me most about Fanny this read through was that she walked a fine line. She was definitely treated as the poor relation and her personality was naturally timid. Despite that, she has such a firm conviction of what is right and wrong. When Edmund, whom she loves with devotion, strays from the right, she is in the painful position of reconciling what can't be reconciled. But she doesn't change her convictions. I think too often we don't know what we think about things and we are easily swayed by the opinions of others, or even by our own desires. In that sense, I think Fanny is strong and active and immovable. And in the end, she brings renewal to a family that is decaying morally. She's not funny or clever or witty, but she is amazingly true morally speaking.
I just came across this "bibliography" of Austen sequels and "accessories" (to borrow a term that someone employed earlier in this discussion), and thought others might be interested.
I very much agree with tjsjohanna above (#44). I had to read Mansfield Park through two or three times before I was able to fully appreciate how one could view Fanny Price positively as a heroine. It's her inner strength of character set against the external perceptions of her weaknesses (poor health, lacking in financial resources).
I can honestly say that the two full length novels that are my favorites of Austen's work are S&S and MP. I also like Lady Susan, but that's a much shorter work. She's a female Willoughby and so *deliciously* wicked.
#44 - I think Fanny is strong and active and immovable. And in the end, she brings renewal to a family that is decaying morally. She's not funny or clever or witty, but she is amazingly true morally speaking.
See, it's this strong moral core that defines Austen's novels for me. I was surprised when, in the introduction to last night's Persuasion adaptation, Gillian Anderson talked about Austen's "love stories." Yes, they are stories that end in proposals of marriage, but to me that's secondary. Jane Austen's heroines invariably find happiness (and love) only after they have made the correct - and often personally painful - moral choices.
I haven't found a sequel that I have liked yet. I like the remakes or up-to-date retelling lke Bridget Jones or Clueless, but when the real characters are used, the stories are just alright.
I thought Pamela Aidan's retelling from Darcy's pov was good.
I've tried others, but the feel of the books and characters were just too different for me to really accept that these were the same characters that Austen wrote about.
I couldn't quite get into Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries. I just couldn't see the real Jane Austen roaming about so much and becoming involved in so many murder mysteries! I think I'd have enjoyed them more if the sleuth wasn't supposed to be Jane Austen.
Stephanie Barron's mysteries were actually rather fun for a while. But I haven't read the last two or three. I'm not even sure how many I have listed in my library!
52AnneOtkjaer First Message
If you haven't read any of the sequels, please don't start.
I have read a few and they always disappointed me. One nearly ruined the original (S&S) for me, because the beloved characters acted stupid and undermined the original plot.
I guess the sequels are so tempting, because there will be no more real Jane Austen novels, and because we love her characters so much, it's hard to let go.
I agree with AnneOtklaer. I think if someone really loves a character and wants to write about them, they should write a new story with a new character that has the attributes of the Austen character that they love. Maybe they like writing historical fiction or they just love Mr. Darcy, who doesn't? When writers put their interpretation or spin on how characters act and speak it bothers me because I can be thrown off guard by them acting out of their old character. If that makes any sense.
I resisted reading sequels for a long time but because I've read Jane's novels so many times I thought I would give them a try. A lot really disappoint but three I've read lately and thought were well written and true to Austen's spirit are-
(The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen) by Syrie James which isn't strictly a sequel- (Lover's Perjuries) by Joan Ellen Delman and (Lydia Bennet's Story) by Jane Odiwe.
I've tried Elizabeth Aston but I find the style too modern. What I liked about these was the effort on the author's part to remain true to style and they also seemed to know the novels.
I am old enough to have grown up in a structured, mannered society, although not as rigid as in Austen's novels. What most modern writers miss is that persons living in such cultures generally act accordingly, and without much internal comment on the strictures. It is this conforming to the rules which makes breaking the rules very shocking.
So. When I managed to watch a very few scenes of the Keira Knightly attempt at Elizabeth Bennett, with her trademark jaw drop as dialogue, all I could think of was "Valley Girl." After that experience, I have not had the courage to try reading a sequel.
I think that we in the U.S. never know when to leave well alone: Ford Motors took the snazzy little T-Bird and make a family sports sedan out of it. If one is good, forty-five must be a lot better. If a novel is enjoyable, it must have a follow-up.
It is an opinion only, but I doubt that any of us understands the era of Jane Austen's characters well enough to be able to put them into a novel or a play. Let's just continue to read the treasures she left us, and let her rest in peace.
I've actually read a couple "sequels" Some I've like and some I've hated. I did enjoy Darcy's story which is a parallel not as a real piece of Austen literature but just as a light fun read from Darcy's perspective. But as a sappy girl who has imagined Elizabeth and Darcy's post marriage life many times I don't really think any book that I don't write myself or Jane comes back and writes herself would come close to what I imagine it should be.
I usually don't find myself picking up true 'sequels', but I have read several re-tellings. Of those, I really enjoyed The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy and Pamela Aidan's trilogy that starts with An Assembly Such as This. I've enjoyed Stephanie Barron's Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor and Carrie Bebris Pride and Prescience as well as The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James.
Of course, I've found other stories that I have loathed. But I certainly don't think people should stop writing 'fanfiction' or re-tellings because they're never going to tell Austen's story 'right'.
But maybe that's because I really enjoy re-tellings - I think they're often an interesting way to draw attention to something in the original narrative that I may have missed. I'm thinking of the many Shakespeare re-tellings that I've enjoyed (particularly the interchangeability of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that was pointed out in Tom Stoppard's excellent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead).
Besides, I like spending time with my favorite characters and deciding whether the author got them right or not.
In my opinion, Clueless is far and away the best re-telling of Austen that has ever been made, primarily because it never flaunts its allusions to Emma, AND it is closest to the actual wild sense of humor that I think Jane Austen really had.
I've recently finished Murder at Mansfield Park. The Fanny Price in this interpretation is a much more satisfying character. I found Austen's Fanny Price too grey and boring. Plus I was abit revolted by the fact she was in love with her cousin, who was really like a brother to her.
I've read several sequels/retellings. My favorites are "Pemberley Shades" by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt and "The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy" by Mary Street.
It's not a sequel, it's more of a parallel, but I just finished The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen which gets her voice just right, cleverly weaves in references to the novels, and tells a good story.
P D James has written Death Comes to Pemberley will be published on 3rd November with Wickham as the victim according to the Bookseller http://www.thebookseller.com/news/p-d-james-write-austen-murder-mystery.html . I enjoy PD James and wonder what this will be like.
This is how I feel. There have been additional writings and 'alternative fiction' written about a lot of famous characters - Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, Sherlock Holmes. I dont mind it if i think the author really knows the character and makes an effort to keep to the style and tone of the author and the characters. I think it is a compliment to a character to want to keep it going but an insult to the author to put in elements that were not part of his or her writing.
For this reason in the Austen field two of my favorite books are 'Lady Vernon and Her Daughter' and 'A Match for Mary Bennet'. I also liked the Syrie James book = The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I think too many of the other books are just fair romance novels with people in them named Darcy and Elizabeth but nothing of Jane Austen.
> 63 I agree exactly with your sentiments exactly. By the way, since you mentioned Sherlock Holmes, I recently read The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, which was a fairly good pastiche.
The Last Sherlock Holmes Story is one of my favorites, and Dibdin gets the character, the voice and the era beautifully realized. But it is the kind of story that sends Holmesian purists howling for pitchforks and flaming torches.
> 66 But purists never like anything but the original anyway ;)
has anyone read The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet or Eliza's Daughter? I have not read either of them, but both were given to me as gifts.
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett is a dreadful book. I was fortunate to get it from the library rather than spending money on it. All the bad reviews on Amazon are true
I've heard the same about The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. Beautiful cover, terrible book.
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