Once upon a time, there was a 13-year-old girl who stumbled across the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice” when she was scrolling through her cable channels on a lazy afternoon. It opened up her heart and mind to a world she had never known before, a world of sophisticated dialogue, fancy balls, unconventional heroines and (most importantly to her) romance.
A few months later, on her 14th birthday, this girl received her very own Kindle as a present, along with Amazon’s gift of just one free Kindle book: “Pride and Prejudice.” Coincidence? Or fate? Whichever one, a lifelong obsession and adoration for Jane Austen’s most famous work and all things related to it soon blossomed.
“Pride and Prejudice” (“P&P”) is a romance novel that has managed to remain relevant for over 200 years, attracting a fanbase of people from all walks of life, both young and old. The deep love that many feel for the story that Jane Austen penned has inspired countless recreations, such as “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and this year’s “Pride” by Ibi Zoboi.
For all the purist “P&P” fans, this list may not be for you. But for the ones like myself, who are eager to get “Pride and Prejudice” however they can, brace yourselves. Get your Amazon cart on standby or prepare to head over to your nearest bookstore. These five books are bound to satisfy that Darcy/Elizabeth craving (but they might have different names).
1. “Haunting Mr. Darcy” by Karalynne Mackrory
This novel brings a supernatural twist to everyone’s favorite couple. Shortly after the Bingleys and Mr. Darcy leave Netherfield, Elizabeth gets into a carriage accident and finds her soul magically transported to the aforementioned gentleman’s London home.
What follows are often hilarious interactions between a ghostly protagonist and the man she couldn’t want anything less to do with. This one made for a fun quick read and stayed just true enough to the spirit (see what I did there?) of Austen’s characters that I almost thought I was reading her own words at times.
2. “Pride” by Ibi Zoboi
Before even reading this book, it already held a special place in my heart. Zoboi takes Austen’s storyline and characters and uses them as the framework for a novel about Zuri, a Haitian-Dominican teenage girl living in modern-day Brooklyn who just can’t stand the new boy next door, Darius.
As someone who cares about racial diversity in young adult literature, it was fantastic reading this “remixed” version of one of my favorites. However, the actual story is what makes me crazy for “Pride.” The romance feels sweet and fresh, not overly derivative of Austen’s book, and I can tell that Zoboi put a lot of care into the characters and setting. “Pride” was just released on Sept. 18, and I highly recommend it.
3. “The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet” by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Serving as a companion novel to the successful YouTube series, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” this book did not receive nearly as much attention as anticipated. It can be read as a standalone story, but really, Austen fans would be doing themselves a disservice by not watching the webseries first. It really helps to flesh out the characters and story.
In this “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation, Lizzie Bennet is a 24-year-old grad student who starts vlogging her life, including her interactions with her beloved sisters and one seemingly snobbish William Darcy. The best part of this retelling is its uniqueness and how well it brought the characters to a modern setting, so much so that I often view this retelling as its own thing apart from “P&P.” Read the book. Watch the webseries. Or better yet, do both.
4. “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld
Okay, okay, this one isn’t exactly “underrated” in terms of sales. It was a New York Times Best Seller, after all. Still, it wasn’t too well received by readers, netting only 3.6 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. I couldn’t disagree more with a rating. This book is great!
Sittenfeld’s novel ages up most of Austen’s characters, which was refreshing in a world where women over 30 tend to not be the focus of love stories. Liz Bennet is into her career and has never been interested in romance until she meets Fitzwilliam Darcy. For all my “The Bachelor” enthusiasts, Bingley is an ex-reality dating show contestant in this one, which makes for some interesting reading near the end of the novel. Overall, “Eligible” was certainly flawed, but it’s buoyed by a fast-paced plot and just the right amount of familiarity to still feel new.
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