Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jane Austen Sequels…to read or not to read?

My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”
-Mr. Darcy
Although Mr. Darcy was speaking of his faults, the same could be said in regards to a bad experience with a Jane Austen spin-off.
For a true Janeite who is venturing into the uncharted waters of spin-offs, add-ons, sequels, and retellings for the first time, a bad experience has the ability to make the reader shun these types of books.
The Sacred Six
As a lover of the “Sacred Six*”, I too was a bit skeptical of these books when I first spotted them in the book shop and I must admit that on occasion I have wanted to chuck certain books against the wall whilst screaming, ’How could you do that to these beloved characters?”. Yet, I keep reading, reminding myself that this is only one author’s take on the timeless novels Miss Austen created.
While some books certainly make me question the publisher’s decision to print them others make me fall in love with Jane Austen’s novels all over again. It is those authors, the ones who have the ability to breathe new life into the characters that are nestled in our hearts and minds while staying true to Miss Austen’s original characters that makes me yearn for more.
After finishing a novel I come down with a serious condition called the “then whats?” as well as the “what ifs…”, and when I read a Jane Austen novel the condition gets worse, especially after reading Pride & Prejudice.
The last chapter of the novel holds a wealth of possibilities waiting to be explored, especially the bit where it says that Elizabeth and Jane lived within twenty miles of each other. The fact that Pride & Prejudice closes the way it does leads me to wonder if she intended to revisit certain novels.
It is the possibilities, the unanswered questions, the what ifs, that make these spin-offs, add-ons, retellings, and sequels so appealing. They allow the reader to see the novel through the eyes of other characters, such as Mr. Darcy. Even if Jane had produced a companion to Pride & Prejudice, we would never have been able to view it from Darcy’s perspective because Jane Austen stated that she could not write from a male perspective because she did not know what men spoke of when they were left alone.
If these new additions hold true to the characters and worlds Jane Austen created, then I see them as a way to reconnect with the characters I adore. If not, I go back and reread the original novel knowing that nothing can change my opinion of Jane Austen’s novels.
I know that some diehard Janeites believe that NO ONE, under any circumstances, should meddle with the “Sacred Six”. They say that no one can improve her novels; I will admit that that is true. Adaptations are not an improvement; they are simply an enhancement to your Jane Austen experience.
Still not convinced? Let me ask you a question: Have you watched the movie versions of Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park?
If your answer was yes, then you have watched an adaptation of her novels. Each movie is the director’s interpretation of her works, speeding parts up, adding or deleting bits of the plot to improve the flow, even on a few occasions characters have been omitted to suit the director’s vision.
Even though the pieces have moved around, the core of the movie remains the same. It remains the same with novel adaptations occasionally plots are changed yet the core of the story remains the same. Just like with the movie adaptations, you must take the good with the bad. Although you should not let one poorly done novel ruin your experience.
  Even Darcy got a second chance.

A few of my favorite variations:
1. The Darcy Saga by Sharon Lathan
2. The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview
3. Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
4. Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange
5.  Edmund Bertram’s Diary by Amanda Grange
6. Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise
7. Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

I want to say thank you to Jennifer Lopushok @ The Beauty of Eclecticism for inviting me to share my thoughts regarding Jane Austen spin-offs. Please check out her post and share your thoughts.
*I have noticed that Janeites often use the phrase “The Sacred Six” when referring to Jane Austen’s six novels.

Until We Meet Again,
Best Wishes & Happy Reading,

Angela Renee