Pride and Prejudice Retellings

There is no better time than the depths of winter to watch (or re-watch) the 5-hour BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. But did you know that there are also approximately a billion book adaptations, spinoffs, and retellings of the same story? In most cases knowledge of the original is unnecessary for your enjoyment, but if you’re familiar with it you’ll have an extra appreciation for these books. Here are a few:

Longbourn by Jo Baker
In Pride and Prejudice we hear one story about people who live at Longbourn, but here Jo Baker gives us a completely different story that is going on at the same time. Our main character is a maid named Sarah who is intrigued by a new footman, James. There is every bit as much drama and romance as with the Bennet girls, and those events are happening in the background but they’re not what we’re concerned with here. This is an excellent historical novel in its own right, rich with detail about everyday life in this period.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
Remember pious, bookish Mary, the ill-singing middle sister at whom the others were constantly sighing or rolling their eyes? Hadlow reimagines her story here, finally giving her a chance to star without embarrassment. The characters and humor are very true to the original, and it’s incredibly satisfying to see another perspective on the events. Of course, true to any good Austen retelling, she also (finally!) gets her own chance at love. Mary really deserved more than Jane Austen gave her, and I’m glad Hadlow has provided that.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Zoboi’s teen novel Pride is more of a straight-up retelling, starring Black teenagers in a contemporary setting. Set in the New York neighborhood of Bushwick, Lizzy Bennet has been reimagined as Zuri Benitez, proud of her Haitian and Dominican roots and protective of her neighborhood. When the Darcy family moves in across the street, it’s obvious that they don’t fit in – they are rich, and dress and talk like white people, a perfect illustration of the theme of gentrification that runs through the novel. Of course Zuri keeps running into one of the brothers, Darius, and the ending is inevitable but still full of surprises. Zoboi does an excellent job of creating modern, genuine characters that are perfectly updated versions of the original.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Arguably the most hilarious of all the retellings with which I’m familiar, this is another contemporary take. Here, Jane is a yoga instructor, Mary a perpetual student and recluse, and Kitty and Lydia are obsessed with CrossFit and their paleo diets, while Lizzie works for a magazine. Just like the original Bennets, this family has fallen on hard times, though here it’s because of Mr. Bennet’s illness and the family’s lack of health insurance. The family meets Chip Bingley, a doctor at the hospital where Mr. Bennet stays, and through him his friend Mr. Darcy. The plot and characters are almost exactly like the original (down to the dialogue in some parts), but with modern trappings – it’s incredibly clever! The satire still works, which must say something about how our society has changed and how it hasn’t.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. When his engagement to Hafsa is announced, Ayesha must deal with the truth about Khalid, her family… and herself.

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley
As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh was prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. Growing up sheltered and confined, removed from sunshine and fresh air, the pale and overly slender Anne grew up with few companions except her cousins, including Fitzwilliam Darcy. Throughout their childhoods, it was understood that Darcy and Anne would marry and combine their vast estates of Pemberley and Rosings. But Darcy does not love Anne or want her. After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without?

In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life. An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

Unmarriageable: A Novel by Soniah Kamal
In this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry–until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider. A scandal and vicious rumor in the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and start having children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire them to dream of more. When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for eligible–and rich–bachelors, certain that their luck is about to change. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of one of the most eligible bachelors. But his friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her, and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. But as the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal–and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay– and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters. Aliza Bentaine has already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again. She doesn’t expect a clash of wills with dragonrider, Alastair Daired, nor the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor… something far more sinister than gryphons.

Those are just a sampling of what’s out there in the world of P&P retellings, but here’s a list of other notable titles:

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price
Debating Darcy by Sayantani DasGupta
Pride and Protest by Nikki Payne
Being Mary Bennet by JC Peterson

To find more great books go to our book recommendation page and browse book lists created by the librarians at Robbins.