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Jane Austen News - Issue 145

What's the Jane Austen News this week? 

A Plethora of Period Dramas

We're really looking forward to Christmas this year! As well as spending time with family and friends and partaking of delicious food and drink, we have some amazing programmes coming up on the BBC that are on our "must watch" (or tape for later) list!

The BBC has announced that an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders starring John Malkovich and Rupert Grint will be shown. Also coming up will be a new version of Watership Down, featuring the voices of John Boyega, Olivia Colman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Peter Capaldi and Mackenzie Crook. However, most exciting for us, is the upcoming six-part non-musical take on Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, with Dominic West as Jean Valjean, and also starring David Oyelowo and Lily Collins.


We also have good news if you don't live in the US and don't have access to the BBC though. Amazon Prime has snapped up the rights to show The ABC Murders in the US, and and Watership Down is a co-production with Netflix so that will be available to those outside the UK as well. Meanwhile, Les Miserables is a co-production with the US network Masterpiece. So American fans of period dramas - keep an eye out for that coming to your screens.

Christmas with The Wickhams Last year, the Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota played host to a unique production called Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. It was very well received and the script has since been used to put on new productions of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley across the US. To follow on from that success, playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon have turned their spotlight on another one of the Bennet sisters and have tried to give her a happier ending than she might have faced where the book left off. This year it's Lydia Bennet's turn to be the star of the show in The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. The concept of the new show is that it takes place at the same time as their first play, Miss Bennet, but The Wickhams takes place downstairs where servants are bustling with the arrival of holiday guests. In the warmth of the Darcy kitchen, family secrets are revealed and loyalties are tested. Although the servants have a strong presence, so do the main characters of Pride and Prejudice, who keep coming downstairs to manipulate things behind the scenes.
A delight for the holidays, with the humor and heart we crave. Pioneer Press
Sadly those of us at the Jane Austen News can't go and see it, but we thought we'd mention it in case anyone in the Minneapolis area of Minnesota might like to go. The show is on at the Jungle Theatre until December 30th.
Austen Retellings You May Not Have Read As with most years, this year has seen a goodly number of Jane Austen inspired books being published. Some have been more successful than others, but thanks to an article from Buzzfeed, which recapped some of the new Austenesque arrivals of the year, the Jane Austen News was reminded of some of the ones we've really enjoyed discovering, as well as one or two which we're still yet to have a look at. We thought you might also be interested in one/some of the books which were featured. So here are a few of the Austen retellings which you might not yet have read (and a couple which aren't retellings so much as new stories). By the Book by Julia Sonneborn This is a modern take on Persuasion. English professor Anne Corey desperately wants to secure tenure at her college. She's decided that to keep her life on track, all she needs to do is to get a book deal and secure a promotion. This is hard enough as on its own, but then her first love and ex-fiancé Adam Martinez gets hired as the college's new president. The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A Flynn This is less of a retelling, and is rather an entirely new storyline based around Austen's life and "what-ifs". In The Jane Austen Project, two people travel back in time to find out what Jane's fatal illness was, and to collect her unfinished novel. In the year 1815, they struggle with societal expectations, imposed gender roles, and their growing feelings for one another. Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron As with The Jane Austen Project, Stephanie Barron's series aren't direct retellings of Jane Austen's novels, but the Regency-era mysteries do feature Jane Austen as a Marple-esque crime solving wonder. In the latest installment, the Pride and Prejudice author stumbles upon a dying man whose last words — "Waterloo map" — send her on a wild and potentially deadly treasure hunt. The Jane Austen News expands its to-read listPride by Ibi Zoboi Class, cultural identity, and gentrification take center stage in this retelling of Pride and Prejudice which stars all characters of color. Set in modern-day Brooklyn, it follows Zuri Benitez, a family-focussed, aspiring college student in a rapidly changing neighbourhood. Things get even more complicated in Zuri's community when the rich Darcy family moves in and Zuri begins to develop feelings for the arrogant (but increasingly attractive) Darius. Dragonshadow by Elle Katharine White One of the more unusual retellings. In Heartstone, Elle Katharine White sets Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in a fantastical world with the likes of dragons and direwolves. Dragonshadow returns to that world to continue the story of sparring lovers Aliza and Alastair, as they face their most dangerous monster yet. The Jane Austen News has a growing reading listMary B by Katherine J Chen This book explores the life of the middle Bennet sister, and gives the reader a feminist twist on an old classic. Set before, during, and after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Mary's story is that of a woman struggling against societal norms for freedom, independence, and power over her own future.

This Week's Recommended (Forgotten?) Reads

This week our recommended read comes from a list compiled by Subaita Fairooz of lesser known classic novels by female authors. Some of them we'd heard of, some of them not, but what really caught our eye was Fairooz's recommendation of Evelina by Fanny Burney.

Much like the works of Jane Austen, Evelina, written by Fanny Burney in 1778, revolves around a charming but very young female lead. Evelina is a precursor to many of Austen's later works as it also dives into the domestic lives of young women and the society they were brought up in during the 18th century. If one cares to look deeply into the character's introduction to the real world it can be very easy to draw parallels to the dilemmas that teenage girls face nowadays as they are introduced to the many facets of a robust community.

We thought these were some excellent points and so we feel confident that the other books on Fairooz's list will also be, as Fairooz herself put it, "some glaringly life-changing masterpieces written by women have been unable to garner a household name" .

The Door by Magda Szabó - This a partial autobiography by the Hungarian author. The novel focuses on the unique relationship that Magda and her house cleaner Emerence develop. Passing by Nella Larsen - A powerful novel written in 1929. The story follows two women – Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry – who are childhood friends reuniting after a long time. Clare Kendry's attempts to hide her true identity of being a mixed child from her white husband and the underlying connotations of racism is truly tragic but at the same time teaches us to accept ourselves and each other despite our societal labels. Laura by Vera Caspary -  This 1942 novel is about a young advertiser who is found dead in her apartment and the detective who is assigned to her case. It is also an insight into the author's life who was an advertiser herself and through the years struggled to find the right balance between her career and starting a family in a world that was dominated by men. So Big by Edna Ferber -  This is a Pulitzer winning novel from the mid 1920s. It follows the life of protagonist, Selina Peake De Jong and her son in a harsh Dutch community in South Holland, Illinois, USA. It is a story about having the patience to see the beauty in life even when your circumstances dictate otherwise and the fact that wealth is very fleeting.

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Online Magazine. Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and Jane Austen news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop

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