Alexander McCall Smith brings Jane Austen into the 21st century

Writers including Alexander McCall Smith and Curtis Sittenfeld will bring some of Austen's most famous stories into contemporary times.

'Pride and Prejudice' (adapted in 2005 into a film version starring Matthew Macfadyen, l., and Keira Knightley, r.) will be one of the Austen novels reworked for the Austen Project.

Can there be too much Jane Austen?

Publishers don’t seem to think so. There’s been zombie- and vampire-fueled versions, a popular book club-inspired version, Austen bios, even a book studying the cult-like following of Austen fans. 

And now there’s this, a project to rework Austen’s six most popular novels into the present day. The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works. The authors will put a contemporary spin on the characters and setting, leaving the plot largely intact, for a decidedly modern Austen series.

The novels include “Sense and Sensibility,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” “Persuasion,” and “Mansfield Park.” The authors include Joanna Trollope, whose modernized “Sense and Sensibility” is out this October, as well as Curtis Sittenfeld, who will be reworking “Pride and Prejudice”; Val McDermid, who will update “Northanger Abbey”; and the latest author pairing to be announced, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series author, Alexander McCall Smith, who will revamp “Emma.” 

Authors for “Mansfield Park” and “Persuasion” will be announced later this year.

What can readers expect? Think light, humorous updates on the characters and their environments. According to the UK’s Guardian, in “Emma,” Mr. Woodhouse is obsessed with vitamins, Jane Fairfax plays the tenor saxophone, and Frank Churchill has been living abroad in Australia.

What won’t change, of course, is the romance.

“One of the issues, of course, is the erotic tension that pervades the original novel Emma,” McCall Smith told the Guardian. “That is there in large measure and will remain there in my version. And Freud will be looking over my shoulder as I write. I can't wait to begin my encounter with these delicious characters.”

Trollope’s reworked “Sense and Sensibility,” which HarperCollins will release later this month, bears this description: “Elinor Dashwood, an architecture student, values discretion above all. Her impulsive sister Marianne displays her creativity everywhere as she dreams of going to art school.”

McDermid’s reimagined “Northanger Abbey,” to be published in spring of 2014, features a CCTV camera and satellite TV dishes on the cover.

No matter the dozens of Austen spin-offs circulating the market, we’re predicting the Austen Project will be popular among the country’s countless Austen fans. To paraphrase one of our favorite authors, it is a truth universally acknowledged that there can never be too much Austen.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Alexander McCall Smith brings Jane Austen into the 21st century
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today