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The Multiverse of Pride and Prejudice: Defying Expectations

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 07, 2022

We hope you’re enjoying our series of blogs exploring the “Multiverse” of selected classics by featuring inventive books and films inspired by our favorite time-honored tales. Past installments have included Alice in Wonderland, the Brontës, and The Wizard of Oz. Now, pulling from reader suggestions, we offer a collection of imaginative takes on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, as well as an assortment of screen adaptations—both faithful and alternative—of the classic.

Novel Takes on the Classic

Death Comes to Pemberley
This clever whodunnit by P. D. James is a sequel set six years after the original tale. When Wickham turns up dead, it’s up to Lizzie, Lydia, and Darcy to solve the crime. It’s also been adapted into a BBC miniseries starring Matthew Rhys, Anna Maxwell Martin, and Matthew Goode.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
This modern-day update is based on the Emmy award-winning web series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, created by Hank Green and Bernie Su. The story is told in vlog-style by the eponymous character reporting from her bedroom. Various characters appear to share stories and participate in reenactments.

Ayesha at Last
This contemporary spin by Uzma Jalaluddin centers on a young Muslim woman whose dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. Then she meets Khalid, who she finds both extremely attractive and highly irritating.

Definitely, Maybe in Love
Spring Honeycutt wants two things: to ace her sustainable living thesis and to save the environment. Both seem hopelessly unobtainable until her professor suggests forming a partnership with the very hot, very privileged, very conceited Henry Knightly. Ophelia London’s high-minded heroine is a serious tree-hugger.

An Assembly Such As This
"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me." For much of the original story, Lizzie is confounded by the handsome, inscrutable Mr. Darcy. (As are her readers!) We are united in wanting to know what is going on with him. Yay for Pamela Aidan, who orients her novel around his experience.

Soniah Kamal sets her charming update in present-day Pakistan where Alys, the second and most practical of five daughters teaches English literature to schoolgirls as she tries to navigate the scandal that has ravaged her family’s fortune and marriage prospects.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But it might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi balances cultural identity against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining.

The servants take center stage in this irresistible perspective shift. While Elizabeth and her sisters fuss over balls and husbands, Sarah, their orphaned housemaid, chafes against the boundaries of her class. Jo Baker takes us beyond the drawing rooms uncovering a new side of the story.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s inventive update offers a cast of characters that is both recognizable and completely new. Magazine writer Liz lives in New York City with her older sister, Jane, a yoga instructor. When they return home to Cincinnati after their father’s health scare, they find their family in disarray.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep. At the center of Sonali Dev’s novel is Dr. Trisha Raje, an acclaimed neurosurgeon in San Francisco. But that’s not enough for her influential immigrant family.

When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort for Austen fanatics, Jane's fantasy of meeting her own Mr. Darcy seems suddenly possible. In this addictive, charming, delightful story, Shannon Hale brings out the Jane Austen obsessive in all of us.

Faithful Film Adaptations

The sheer number of excellent and popular adaptations of this novel testify to its long-lasting appeal. Here are our favorites.

Pride and Prejudice (1940): Sir Laurence Olivier nails Mr. Darcy’s broody romance, while Greer Garson captures Lizzie’s wit and independent spirit. That said, be ready for a script that takes a few liberties.

Pride and Prejudice (1980): On the other hand, this BBC miniseries offers a very close read on the source material. Stars David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie radiate great chemistry.

Pride and Prejudice (1995): Consistently ranked number one in Austen adaptations, this iconic miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth sets a very high bar.

Pride and Prejudice (2005): Another popular choice, this film starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is perhaps the most visually artistic of the bunch.

Retellings on Screen

But let’s not limit our viewing options to those that follow the expected path. These adaptations took things in a slightly different direction.

Unleashing Mr. Darcy: This popular Hallmark movie features a young woman who enters her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a fancy New York dog show where she clashes with an arrogant judge by the name of Darcy.

Pride & Prejudice (a latter-day comedy): In this indie adaptation, Elizabeth is a 25-year-old aspiring author working in a bookstore. When she crosses paths with an imperious businessman who owns a publishing company, they bump heads.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Based on the book by Seth Grahame-Smith, this campy fantasy starring Lily James finds an alternate version of Georgian England. Here the Bennet sisters aren’t just vying for husbands, they’re fighting zombies.

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe: In a holiday-themed gender reversal, this story features Darcy as a wealthy businesswoman who returns to her hometown and reconnects with an old high school rival. Based on a book by Melissa De La Cruz.

Bride and Prejudice: From the same director as Bend it Like Beckham, this well-received film features the modern-day Bakshi family in India and a cross-cultural romance. Bollywood dance numbers abound!

Bridget Jones’s Diary: Six years after he played Darcy to perfection in the 1995 miniseries, Colin Firth got to reprise the role, this time in the film based on Helen Fielding’s bestselling modern-day retelling.

Retellings, sequels, and updates abound for this ever-popular title, so this roundup is a bit longer than our others. Even so, we’re guessing there are a few great titles we’ve missed. Please let us know if you have favorites to add. And let us know if there are any other classics you’d like us to feature in a “multiverse.”

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