This year is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. While this was the second book of hers to be published, it is generally the novel that most people know of or associate with when Austen is mentioned.
Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published in 1811. Pride and Prejudice is similar to Sense and Sensibility in that the story revolves around two sisters, both from middle class, but not vastly wealthy families and details them falling in love with respectable (and sometimes no so respectable) gentlemen. Both having wonderfully happy endings for nearly all the characters. In short, they are both a delight!
I have read Pride and Prejudice on and off several times over the years, but have never really gotten around to pursuing Sense and Sensibility. I have however, seen possibly every single film and BBC television production of both novels.
As a bookseller, I can assure you, there is always a large number of Jane Austen related books floating around. Most commonly are novels imagining what happened to the characters from Austen’s novel after their ‘happily ever after’ endings. Also quite popular are novels told from the perspective of the male lead. Mr Darcy’s Diary for example. There are Jane Austen themed books on basically any topic you can imagine. And this year, due to the anniversary, there were even more! Jane Austen biographies, novels, films, stationary and merchandise abound. So it was no surprise that The Austen Project was founded this year.
The Austen Project is a writing project that has been established as a way to celebrate the anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. Six famous, contemporary authors have been commissioned to create modern renditions of Austen’s six most popular novels; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Each book is being released every few months. Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope is the first of the six to be released. Each of these novels, unlike other books or films with allusions to Jane Austen (think Bridget Jones’ Diary, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You) appear to be using the exact same characters and storylines, yet in a modern setting, as oppossed to alluding to the stories. For example, Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility has all the same characters as Austen’s original, as well as also living in an estate with the same name, Norland. I assume the rest of the novel will play out as close to the original as possible.
I’ve just started Trollope’s version and it’s all looking very promising! I’ll hopefully have a review sometime in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, The Austen Project website is full of interesting things to read :)