Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Lost in admiration

Further to Lost in a book, I think the last episode of ITV's Lost in Austen ended a brilliantly-conceived drama very satisfactorily. If you missed the series, the official ITV site has background and catchup links. (If you don't mind spoilers, there's a very positive Tim Teeman review at The Times here, and the ITV press centre has episode synopses #1, #2, #3, #4). I hope they don't feel the urge to spoil it by, as is often the case, trying to stretch it out to a sequel. But I'd bet money that a novelisation is in the pipeline. It'd be an interesting exercise because there are two options: the obvious one of writing it from the viewpoint of Amanda Price, the modern character who finds her way into the story; or more subtly, from an in-story viewpoint of any of the characters unaware of the modern intrusion, reconstructing the altered Pride and Prejudice as the story of a social set much-changed by the arrival of a gauche and enigmatic stranger.

Incidentally, I hadn't realised until Googling, just, how many reworkings of Pride and Prejudice there have been. Bridget Jones's Diary is well known to be a very loose retelling, and Bride and Prejudice as a Bollywood take. But further skimming, I find Melissa Nathan's Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field; Paula Marantz Cohen's Jane Austen in Boca; Gill Tavner's Pride and Prejudice (in her Jane Austen Retold series for younger readers); and, well, see Ms H Turner's astonishingly completist Listmania! compilations of Pride and Prejudice Sequels and Remakes, and Patricia Latkin's Looking for Jane in All the Wrong Places. And that's the published ones, not including Jane Austen fan fiction.

P.S. Lily just reminded me of another example: The Jane Austen Book Club, the film based on Karen Joy Fowler's novel of the same name, in which the members of an Austen reading group find their lives are mirroring characters in the books they're reading. I've also just noticed that Darcy and Elizabeth even turn up in the Wold Newton Universe mentioned in the previous post; in the latest revision of the timeline, they're among those irradiated by the Wold Newton meteorite, their descendants' family tree including Tarzan and Doc Savage.

P.P.S. I have, by the way, a soft spot for Jane Austen's work as a prime example of the use of venerable English construct often assumed (wrongly) to be a recent "PC" invention. See Everybody loves their Jane Austen on the antiquity, and ubiquity in the works of generally acclaimed writers, of singular "their" as a genderless construct in English.

- Ray


  1. I thoroughly agree with you about the undesirability of a sequel ... though the closing scene makes me fear the worst.

    Putting that aside, though, it was, as you say, a very satisfactorily handled ending.

    All in all, I'm very glad that your viewpoint caused me to stick with it after my initial "very good, but not for me" reaction – it just got better and better.

  2. As I said, I especially liked the way it worked at whatever level of complexity you cared to take it. I'm sure there was a lot I missed in the plot and character allusions (it's been years since I read the book, and I can't say I know the story inside-out). But there were plenty of in-jokes, such as quoting the classic FE Smith exchange ("I am none the wiser" ... "But at least you are better informed"); and I'm sure Mr Bennet's "anorchous" insult was lost on most viewers.

  3. You're right. I haven't read the book since A-level, and I'm afraid I was much at sea about exactly what departures from the text had occurred. Yes, "anorchous" passed me by - and I didn't realise that "better informed" was a qotataion ... but, as you say, it worked beautifully even with my superficial background.

    Very impressive