karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

If Jane Austen were alive today. . .

I love Jane Austen's work, and I'm not alone. Recently she has become an industry. There are mash-ups, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, where another type of story is grafted onto hers, and modernizations of her stories, like the movie Clueless (from Emma) or Bridget Jones' Diary (a book and a movie based loosely on Pride and Prejudice). There are also people writing sequels and prequels and alternate (even slash) versions of her stories. When you have been dead that long, public domain is indisputable.

But I have to think that if Jane were alive today— if she were a modern woman whom modern medicine could help survive whatever it was that killed her at such a young age— she would not be writing exactly the same plots. One reason she focused so much on marriage was because in her time, that was a woman's fate. But one reason the books are so popular is, all the characters in them react to each other. P&P doesn't just relate Lizzie Bennett finally falling for Mr. Darcy (after she sees his estate!), it shows her whole messy, often silly, usually good-natured family interacting with each other. It's about the manners of the day, and what happened when people failed to follow the dictates of good behavior. It's about all kinds of relationships.

If Jane were alive today, she would probably be writing books like the one I am reading now, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. In this story, a widow and a widower find solace in each other in spite of cultural differences, family pressures, and fear of change. The story, like Jane's books, happens against the backdrop of family squabbles, gossip, and village life.

Jane would approve! When I finish the book, I will post a real review.

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