Hello all, it’s been a hot second. I hope you’re all been really good. I’ve talked a for a long time about doing this post and I’m so excited to finally bring it to you with my the lovely Tree over at Words About Words. You can find her blog post and pictures over at her website as well! I LOVE Pride and Prejudice, like many people. I love the social commentary, and the hate-to-love. I love the fierce heroine that Lizzie is and the just-shy-of-unforgivable hero/villain arc Darcy totally owns. There’s something very satisfying about two people slowly learning and discovering some of the worst things about each other are simply misunderstandings and becoming closer because of it. My favorite Pride and Prejudice version to this day is the 2005 Kiera Knightly version—sorry I just really don’t have six hours to dedicate to one thing anymore. And watching it about 8 months ago kind of got me thinking though, what exactly makes a Pride and Prejudice retelling? It can’t be just the love-to-hate. After reading several Pride and Prejudice retellings, I’ve settled on this very brief list (other than the blossoming romance between Lizzie and Darcy of course):
- Jane X Bingley
- Some kind of proposal/initiation of a relationship (and subsequent rejection)
- Some kind of ball
- Lydia “running” away with Wickham
Honestly, I use to think some things were absolutely essential to Pride and Prejudice, like a gross Mr. Collins, the 4 Bennet sisters, a ball/party and a horrible Mr. Wickham. But after reading all these different retellings. I’ve come to realize a lot of those things aren’t necessary—a lot of these stories break the mold and are still amazing retellings. Pretty much all of these retellings omit or change some part of the original story including the Bennett sisters, Caroline, Mr. Collins, and Georgianna. And all of them somehow add a depth to the story and helped me think a little more deeply about some of the characters that are often forgotten in the story like Colonel Fitzgerald, Charlotte, Mr. Collins etc.
And after reading all these different takes, I’m still wide open to other interpretations. Like for example, I’d love a matchmaking Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie and Darcy hate each other but are united by their mutual love for Jane and Bingley and want to conspire to match-make them. Also you could throw fake dating in there if you want *wink wink*. Or maybe a Pride and Prejudice about Mary and her story that tells us she was secretly in cahoots with Darcy the whole time. Or a story about Jane and Bingley’s courtship that could add a lot of depth to Jane and Bingley. Anyway, all of these Pride and Prejudice retellings have something different to bring to the table and I’m very pleased to bring all of them to you! I’m also going to add a favorite moment in white text—you can highlight the text to read it if you’re already read it or want spoilers! Alright, let’s go!
1.) Unmarriageable by Sonia Kamal
This is the most social commentary heavy retelling on this list. I don’t know very much about Persian/Pakistani culture, but there are a lot of conversations about class, body image, and gender in this retelling which I really appreciated. P&P is so often reduced to a romance when there’s so much more to unpack.
CW: fatantagonistic (addressed at the very end), sexism, amisia
Favorite moment: When the “Mary” of this story stands up for herself at the end of the book.
2.) Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
I think this Pride and Prejudice has the most lovable Darcy, all things considered. Khalid is gentle, sweet, and very considerate. I love him with Ayesha, they have an undeniable chemistry and really help each other become better. It’s hard to choose, but this is definitely my favorite retelling on the list. I think Ayesha and Khalid had the most emotional compatibility of all these “Lizzies” and “Darcys”. They both change so much and learn so much about each other and themselves.
Favorite moment: The tension when Khalid realizes Ayesha is not really the person he’s engaged to and
3. Ditching Mr. Darcy by Samantha Whitman
I think the most fun part about this book was that it was like living through the entire plot of Pride and Prejudice. It was also kind of fun that it was a different kind or story and it diverts from the main story. It’s not my favorite, but the writing was stupendous and perfectly echoed Jane Austen’s voice and writing style.
Favorite moment: When I realized the MC is about Mr. Bingley in this retelling.
4.) Pride by Ibi Zoboi
I loved this retelling because it’s the only YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice on this list. I loved how much it focuses on Zuri’s identity and her relationship with her sisters—I think Zuri and Darius have the best dialogue out of all these retellings. Zuri is definitely the sharp-tongued Lizzie we deserve.
5. Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
6. I was really excited about reading this book, but after about 50% I had to put it down. This is a gender-switched “inspired by Pride and Prejudice” story with a very diverse cast. I liked a lot of what was going on with DJ’s character, I think Dev added a bit more layer to his relationship with his sister. But I found the supporting characters on Trisha’s side of the story to be completely intolerable. They’ve obnoxious, rude, and petty. I mean I’m not expecting everyone to be peachy keen, this is Pride and Prejudice after all. But literally Trisha would be like “Oh Sister A and Cousin B are my favorite because they always have my back” and then like 3 pages later they would be treating her like some trash they fished out of the nearby pond. I just couldn’t take it anymore. This also didn’t feel as much of a retelling as a hate-to-love. Which is fine, I love hate-to-love, but don’t sell a Pride and Prejudice retelling if it’s not one.
7. The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker
I really loved the first 60% of this book or so. Freddy and Griff are adorable and I love that even though they’re so different they fell together. I think my real issue is ALL the conflict is essentially packed into the last 40 percent or so. It’s not paced well. It was just too much for me. It also seemed a bit more like a hate-to-love than a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, which is totally fine.
Favorite moment: When Freddy and Griff go on their walk.
8. The Story of Lizzie and Darcy by Grace Watson
This has the most interesting writing style of all these retellings. It’s kind of told like one friend tells another story, which I love. It’s the only sapphic retelling on this list, which is a little sad. But I’m glad I was able to find one at all! I ended up not finishing it because the writing style started bothering me too much.
Favorite moment: When I realized how queer this book is.
9. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries created by Hank Green and Bernie Su et al.
I would be remiss if I skipped The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on this list (they’re all on YouTube and free to watch). I’ll admit at first I was very skeptical of the videos. Lizzie seemed just a little in-genuine when I first started watching. But as I got to know her as her own unique character, I really started to enjoy the series and her dry humor. CW: some words that are not longer used anymore (e.g. r-word, crazy, h*ndicap). I also appreciated that this was one of the only retellings that does not villainize Caroline.
10. Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulburg
Look this one is super YA and I read it for the first time when I was like 16. It’s cheesy, it’s cute, and it’s very high school. Lizzie & Will Darcy attend a fancy private school, which highlights the difference in their socioeconomic standings. What is a bit different about this one is that Lizzie and Jane are roommates and Lydia is Jane’s younger sister. This isn’t my favorite change to the original story, but it works in this one. From what I remember this follows the original story pretty well and reads like an “modern AU fanfiction”, but not in a bad way. It was fun to read a P&P retelling where the characters are younger and in a school setting.
11. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is another modern retelling and the characters are older. Jane is reaching her 40th birthday and Mrs. Bennet is not pleased about all of her unmarried daughters. I enjoyed the aging up of the characters, which is a fitting modernization. The Bennet family lives in Ohio while Jane and Lizzie live in New York City. Due to family circumstances, Jane and Lizzie have to come back home and meet the Bingleys and Darcy. It follows the original plot, but there are a few changes. Lizzie does have a relationship with a married man, which is not my favorite and do I think Elizabeth Bennet would have done that? Unsure. I would say this is a faithful adaptation which has been modernized (Mary is working on an online masters program & Lydia and Kitty love Crossfit). Since the characters are older, I would classify this as a more mature adaptation which touches on more adult problems.
12. Pride & Prejudice & Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz
This one got turned into a Hallmark movie and honestly that is all you need to know. It is a genderbent P&P retelling with Darcy & Luke. Aside from the main characters having similar names, this is not a P&P retelling and the author deviates from the story quite a bit. Now, I do not have a problem with the author taking some liberties, I mean clearly we have all read the story a bunch of times, but this was too much. Darcy and Luke knew each other from high school (I think) and their relationship progresses quickly. Plus, Darcy has parents and was just estranged from them. I did not enjoy this book, but if you are looking for a cute winter rom-com that isn’t P&P, you might enjoy this more than I did.
There are a few retellings I still plan on reading like Heartstone by Elle Katherine White and A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen (in 20201). But there’s still a million more out there. I’m still looking for some more queer P&P retellings so if you know of any let me know! What are your favorite Pride and Prejudice retellings? Anyone fancy an Internet watch along of Pride and Prejudice (the Kiera Knightly one)? Let me know and let’s chat!