Austen Project Announces McCall Smith for Modern Reimagining of Emma

Author Alexander McCall Smith (2013) by Michael LionstarThose folks at HarperCollins really know how to make Janeites scream with joy—well—at least this Janeite, who is over the moon from their announcement last Friday that Alexander McCall Smith is slated to re-write Emma for The Austen Project.

One of my favorite contemporary authors, McCall Smith is renowned for his delightful No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, filled with the intimate characterizations and laugh-out-loud social humor. Better yet, he is a huge Jane Austen fan! His writing talents are an ideal match to Jane Austen’s Emma, a masterpiece of “minute detail” layered with unique characters and intricate plot. I am on my knees in gratitude to publisher Kate Elton (we promise not to call her Mrs. E.) for her choice. In my humble opinion McCall Smith is the perfect choice for a contemporary re-write and I am all anticipation of its release in 2015, the bicentenary year of Emma’s original publication.

The Austen Project will include contemporary reimagining’s of all of Jane Austen’s six major novels by popular authors. First up in the series will be, Sense and Sensibility, by Joanna Trollope which hits book shelves (and digital readers) this month on October 29th followed by Val McDermid’s interpretation of Northanger Abbey on March 27th 2014 and Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld in 2015. That leaves Mansfield Park and Persuasion still up for grabs.

Speculation abounds in the Jane Austen community over who has been short listed for the last two novels. Each presents certain challenges in matching up the appropriate author, but Mansfield Park even more so. Considered Austen’s dark horse, MP needs to be handled carefully by an author whose skill with intimate family dynamics and incisive wit is key in retelling the story for a contemporary audience. Readers either love MP or hate it, complaining about its timid heroine and weak hero. I am more than a bit biased in favor of the novel’s protagonists: prudential Fanny Price and namby-pamby Edmund Berturm. However, few will fault its brilliantly wicked antagonists: siblings Mary and Henry Crawford. They are the stuff that writers dream of.

There are many talented writers who excel at family stories: Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale), Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex), Ian McEwan (Atonement), Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees), Anna Quindlen (Every Last One) and Cathleen Schine (Fin & Lady) to name only a few. All of these authors exhibit qualities that could suit, but it will take more than an ear for a family tale to pull off a modernization of MP. It needs someone who has sensitively infused family drama into their stories with a keen sense of pathos and humor. Who better to tell the tale than the world’s best storytellers, the Irish. Call is genetic, or cultural, or whatever, there is nothing like James Joyce, Frank O’Connor, John McGahern or Frank Delaney to rip your heart out and then turn around and make you laugh.

Austen’s MP can be read as a sharp social comedy but it is so, much, much more. I believe that is why some readers do not understand or enjoy it as much as Austen’s other work. They don’t quite get the themes Austen was driving towards: passions vs. principles, virtue vs. vice, money vs. charity, and expect a light, bright and sparkly romance like Pride and Prejudice. The characters transfer into an Irish family drama quite seamlessly. Just imagine the Bertram’s embroiled in dark family secrets (Fanny), booze (Lady Bertram), Catholic guilt (Sister Norris), booze (Lady Bertam), clandestine liaisons (Maria & Father Henry, and Tom Bertram & John Yates) and corruption (Sir Bertram) and you will get my drift.

2014 marks the bicentenary of Mansfield Park’s first publication. From the choices that have been made for The Austen Project to date, publisher Kate Elton has “taught me to hope” that they will choose carefully and might be amenable to my giant hint.

What is right to be done cannot be done soon enough.” – Emma 

So, gentle readers, do you agree with MY choice, or who would you like to see rewrite Mansfield Park?


Laurel Ann

  • Please join us on Wednesday, October 30th for our review of Sense & Sensibility (Austen Project), by Joanna Trollope

Image of Alexander McCall Smith courtesy of Random House © Michael Lionstar; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013,

Giveaway Winners Announced for Pride and Prejudice 200 Anniversary Celebration

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

105 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of eight books available of our Pride and Prejudice 200 Celebration. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Pride and Prejudice (Naxos Audiobooks Young Adult’s Classic), by Jane Austen, read by Jenny Agutter

eenayray who left a comment on Feb 6, 2013

  • Dancing with Mr. Darcy, edited by Sarah Waters

araminta18 who left a comment on Jan 28, 2013

  • Mr. Darcy’s Dream, by Elizabeth Aston

Lynn M. who left a comment on Feb 4, 2013

  • Jane Austen in Love, by Elsa Solender

Meredith who left a comment on Jan 28, 2013

  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler

Jordan F. who left a comment on Jan 28, 2013

  • Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Missy S. who left a comment on Jan 29, 2013

  • Falling For Mr. Darcy, by KaraLynne Mackrory

Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) who left a comment on Jan 28, 2013

  • Austensibly Ordinary, by Alyssa Goodnight

Cassie Grafton who left a comment on Feb 2, 2013

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by February 13, 2013.  Shipment is to US addresses only please.

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Roundup of Pride and Prejudice Turning 200 and other Amusements

The Kiss, by Janet Taylor

Illustration of The Kiss, from a note card by Janet Taylor

This has been a heady week of Pride and Prejudice blitz from the media and bloggers celebrating the 200th anniversary of its publication on Monday, January 28, 2013. There have been so many articles, interviews, read-a-thons, television news segments, and Internet chat about Jane Austen’s “darling child” that even this confessed Austen obsessive is overwhelmed and unable to keep up with all of the festivities.  I was shocked to hear another Austenesque author tell me that she was sick of it. “What?” I exclaimed incredulously. “No! This is great for Jane’s fame and for authors,” I told her defensively.  She shrugged and agreed.

It is very gratifying to me to see my favorite author so amply admired by so many and honored by scholars and the media. In a world filled with so much uncertainty and unrest, Pride and Prejudice is indeed a truth universally acknowledged. I think it will be around and venerated as long as people value pithy dialogue, intelligent, spunky heroines, honorable heroes, and compelling love stories. If I had to narrow down why it is my favorite novel, I would say because it is such a chameleon: after repeated annual readings over thirty plus years, I always come to the final passage with some new insight and a calming satisfaction that some things in life are constant.

Here is my roundup of favorite #PandP200 articles:

Jane Odiwe, BBC interview (2013)

The enduring appeal of Pride and Prejudice

Our friend and Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contributor Jane Odiwe is interviewed by the BBC. Jane, the author of four Austen-inspired novels, and numerous illustrations of her favorite Austen characters and scenes, admits to being obsessed with Jane Austen to the world. Brave, Jane. We love you!

Austen Power

“To mark the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, novelists, moviemakers and scholars are releasing a flood of new homages to cash in on the bottomless appetite for all things Austen.” The Wall Street Journal interviews Austen authors Sharon Lathan and Paula Byrne, publishers Oxford University Press, HarperFiction and Sourcebooks, scholars Juliette Wells and Claudia Johnson, and fan Meredith Esparza for this extensive article about Austen’s enduring appeal. Wowza! It got a full page spread in the print edition. Go #TeamJane!

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice Book Design

There are thousands of editions of P&P (it seems) and we love to discover cover designs, old and new. This article in the The Atlantic Wire shares many of the good, the bad, and the horrid, including ones that I included in a post My Top Ten Pride and Prejudice Covers that I wrote in 2010. I guess I was ahead of the trend.

Colin Firth dripping wet with sex as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Darcy is still the ultimate sex symbol

Like this is a surprise? The Telegraph (UK newspaper) offers up this cream puff of a piece on a truth already universally acknowledged by any Janeite worth their weight in syllabub. *yawn* We still like seeing wet shirt Darcy and enjoyed the history of his on screen persona thank you very much!

Why Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice still has appeal 200 years on

Professor Karen O’Brien, Austen expert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, explains why Pride and Prejudice’s appeal has spanned two centuries – and is still growing.

Pride and Prejudice is an enduring classic because it is really about the human instinct to pursue happiness, to insist that happiness is something we are all entitled to (no matter what the Lady Catherine de Bourghs of this world tell us) and to believe that those who are generous, affectionate and self-aware stand the best chance of becoming happy.

The love story is fundamentally about that path to self-awareness, and how a genuinely intimate relationship is a mutual journey in which we come to know ourselves, each other and the world.

We are reminded of Austen’s rub of Birmingham in Emma. I think they have forgiven her.

A Tweet Universally Acknowledged

How would the Netherfield ball play out on Twitter? Austenesque author Lynn Shepherd’s delightful imaginings of a Twitter feed if the Bennet girls could tweet and Darcy could DM. Even Mr. Collins has his say. How he condensed his flowery soliloquies down to 140 characters is quite a feat.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England

Following in Jane Austen’s Footsteps: Discover Novelist’s England

A video look at Chatsworth House, the famous grand manor in Derbyshire that many believe was Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate in Pride and Prejudice. Ooo, we are always awed by its magnificence and are reminded of this passage from chapter 43:

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

Janeites: The curious American cult of Jane Austen

BBC News interviewed Janeites and scholars about the phenomenon of Pride and Prejudice and Jane’s fame here in America including blog mistress and author Myretta Robens of The Republic of Pemberley, professor of English Literature at Princeton University and esteemed Austen scholar Claudia L Johnson, and me. Yes, you read that correctly. ME. In our best imitation of Mr. Collins, we were very humbled that the esteemed BBC condescended to interview us on such an auspicious occasion.

Which—leads me to my own personal Pride and Prejudice 200 encounter at work on Wednesday with a non-Janeite sent on an errand by his teenage daughter.

Customer: Do you have a copy of Pride and Prejudice?
Me: *smiles* Why yes, we have several editions. Is this a gift or for yourself?
Customer: It’s for my 14-year old daughter who has never had an interest in reading classics before. She gave me this news article and asked for this book too, written by some Jane Austen cultist who lives in our hometown of Snohomish.
Me: *Nods in stunned silence. Looks at article.* Yes, I am familiar with the article and the book.
Customer: Really? What a coincidence!
Me: Monday was the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. It was all over the media and television. *walks customer over to Austen shelf in fiction and then to anthologies for Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
Customer: *points at cover of Jane Austen Made Me Do It* Do you know anything about this book?
Me: *pregnant pause* I do. I am the Jane Austen cultist who lives in Snohomish.
Customer: *Stares in stunned silence and then laughs loudly*
Me: *calmly smiles* I hope she enjoys both books!
Customer: *still laughing, he nods his thanks and walks away*

Happy bicentenary Pride and Prejudice!

If you would like to continue the celebration with us here at Austenprose, please join The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013. We are reading Jane Austen’s classic and many Austen-inspired sequels, viewing movie adaptations and other diverting entertainments with great giveaway prizes all year long.


Laurel Ann

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

A Light, Bright, and Sparkling Pride and Prejudice Anniversary Celebration & Giveaway

Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (1995)Huzzah Janeites! Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. *throws confetti*

The exact day of publication of Pride and Prejudice is uncertain, but we do know from Austen’s personal correspondence that she had received her own copy from her publisher by January 27, 1813, and the London newspaper The Morning Chronicle announced Pride and Prejudice as ‘Published this Day’ on 28 January 1813. So, that is the date that scholars have accepted.

You will see all sorts of media coverage this week, including this BBC news article, and many others about this worldwide celebration, but the Jane Austen blogosphere is having their own party in honor of this fabulous novel with a Blog Hop hosted by Courtney at Stiletto Storytime and author Alyssa Goodnight. See the great list of giveaways that we are offering to readers below!

If you would like your celebration of Pride and Prejudice to continue, please join us here at Austenprose for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013. We are reading the classic novel and exploring many of the many novels, books, movies and entertainments that it has inspired with a monthly review and discussion. It’s totally free and guaranteed fun.


Pride and Prejudice (Naxos Young Adult Classics), by Jane Austen, read by Jenny Agutter (2009)Enter a chance to win one of eight books available by leaving a comment sharing your story of your first impressions of Pride and Prejudice or if you have not read it yet, why you would like to by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Winners to be announced on Thursday, February 7, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only.

© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austen on the Block! ~ An Austen-Filled Autumn at Upcoming Auctions

Laurel Ann:

Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont has an excellent blog listing upcoming Austen-related auction items. There are so many tempting offerings – if one had Lizzy Bennet’s pin money!

Originally posted on Jane Austen in Vermont:

UPDATE: Prices realized noted in red as they become available

There are a number of Jane Austen materials coming up for auction in the next few weeks, some actually affordable! – and then some, not so much…  here are brief synopses – visit the auction house websites for more information.

This one is a bit different and an interesting addition to anyone’s Pride and Prejudice collection!

November 18, 2012. Heritage Auctions, Lot 54353. Pride and Prejudice 1939 Movie photographs:

Pride and Prejudice (MGM, 1939). Photos (16) (8″ X 10″). Drama.

Vintage gelatin silver, single weight, glossy photos. Starring Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Mary Boland, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O’Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, Frieda Inescort, Edmund Gwenn, Karen Morley, Heather Angel, Marsha Hunt, Bruce Lester, Edward Ashley, Melville Cooper, Marten Lamont, E.E. Clive, May Beatty, Marjorie Wood, Gia Kent. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard.

There are 14 different photos with a…

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Complete Set of the 1833 Bentley Edition of The Six to be Auctioned in Dublin

Laurel Ann:

Julie at Austenonly shares the news about a beautiful set of Austen novels on the block. Oh how I wish.

Originally posted on Austenonly:

On Saturday, at their premises in Dublin, Whyte’s auctioneers will be auctioning a complete set of Richard Bentley’s 1833 edition of Jane Austen’s novels in five volumes:  four single volumes each containing one novel, that is, of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, and one volume containing the full text of both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

These books were the first edition of Jane Austen’s works to appear in the format of one volume per novel and to be illustrated. According to the publishing history of these books given in David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen, the publication of the novels was overseen by Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra and her brother, Henry. Jane Austen had, of course, died in 1817 and did not live to see these editions. In a letter dated 20th May 1831 written to John Murray, who was Jane Austen’s publisher…

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