The Best Pride and Prejudice Retellings

Today’s guest post is from my dear friend and fellow Bookstagrammer, Maria. I met her a few years ago through mutual friends and we bonded over our shared love of reading. During COVID we started a romance only book club that helped both of us get through the shutdown and the difficult months following it.

Photo by Maria Anderson

Maria’s Instagram account is where she cooks food featured in the books she reads. She does an amazing job so you should definitely start following her!

I’m not sure what it is about Pride and Prejudice that I love so much. The enemies to lovers trope? The rich guy brought to his knees by someone ‘beneath his station’? The complex family relationships, and exploration of what it is to gain power as a woman in a patriarchal society? Probably all of those things, plus a lot more I haven’t articulated.

My love affair actually started in 2005, when I saw the newly released movie on a train from Seattle to Portland. I was 18, a college freshman, I had no idea what Pride and Prejudice was, and I was hooked. Kiera Knightly was effervescent, and I still don’t understand how at the start of the movie Matthew MacFayden is okay looking, and by the end is the hottest thing on two legs. Every time. 

The love for the movie turned into a love for the story. I did read the original a few years later but where the story really shines for me is in the retelling. I will read anything even vaguely Pride and Prejudice shaped. Some books are silly, some funny, some cringey, and some are transcedent.

My journey started with some literal retellings and continuations. Fairly forgettable books where Lizzie and Darcy go on their honeymoon, or where she agrees to marry him when he proposes the first time. Then, I started reading some contemporary retellings. 

Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev is one of my absolute favorites. It’s gender bent, and takes place in California, with a snooty second generation Indian neurosurgeon and a mixed race working class chef. It is full of heart, with plenty of swoon, complex social commentary, and mouthwatering food.

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal takes the story to modern day Pakistan, with some fourth wall breaking moments as Alys, our main character, teaches her students about Jane Austen while living out her most famous story. 

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin also features Muslim protagonists, this time in North America, and with our Darcy character, Khalid, being a deeply religious person who is wonderful, kind, and thoughtful under his bristly awkward shell. 

A Higher Education by Rosalie Stanton has our protagonists as mid-twenties college freshman, and is maybe my favorite retelling, in part because it’s incredibly sexy and so emotionally captivating. It has been read fewer than 500 times on Goodreads, and I don’t understand it at all, it’s so GOOD.

Finally, we have Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur, a sapphic retelling, with fake dating and classic P&P opposites attract energy, set in Seattle. This one, like Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors, has follow up books in the series, and checking back in with our babies is always a treat. 

And I can’t talk about Pride and Prejudice without taking about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, even though it’s a YouTube show instead of a book. It’s an absolute delight, I’ve watched it through twice now, and I am always trying to get other people to jump on the bandwagon.

What I love the most, is how universal the story is. It works across time, with every race, culture, religion, and life circumstance. The whole ensemble is relatable, you have absolutely met a Mr. Collins, and it was just as irksome for you as Lizzie. You know mothers who are so desperate to provide for their children that they lose sight of why they are doing what they do. All cultures devalue women, and women in every culture find a way to push back, and gain what agency they can. Sibiling relationships are complicated, and sometimes you do the wrong thing and someone gets hurt. 

There is something for everyone in this story, and watching new authors riff off the classic story, teasing out the similarities and differences from the original story, brings me an unreasonable amount of delight. It’s a distillation of what I love about romance in general. We all know how it ends, we know it’s coming, but seeing the unique twists and turns on the way, how authors put their stamp on it, and let their versions of Lizzie and Darcy breathe, absolutely mesmerize me. All I want for Christmas is another Pride and Prejudice retelling!

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