19th century meets the 21st century: The Austen Project

The Austen ProjectI’ve been reading Sense & Sensibility, not the original, but the first volume of ‘The Austen Project‘.

The AustenProject teams up contemporary authors with 19th century classics written by one of my favorite authors of all time – Jane Austen.

The first novel in the series is written by British bestselling author Joanna Trollope, and I’ve enjoyed reading her reworking of the classic tale of Elinore and Marianne,  two very different sisters – one ruled by her brain, the other by her heart.

The idea is fascinating – take a 19th century classic, maintain the story, the characters, and the plot points, but transport the story two centuries later than its original setting, so that it takes place in modern times.

Admittedly, as an Austen fan, half the fun is trying to see how 19th century conundrums (property entailed away from daughters to the closest male heir? a secret engagement? a compromising, unchaperoned outing between a young man and woman?) will be dealt with in the reworked version.

The Austen ProjectI must say, Trollope has handled them quite deftly. 19th century characters concerned primarily with money and status transport quite nicely into modern times. Frivolous, empty-headed characters in the modern world simply shift their attention to Facebook and texting.

It’s a fun read, especially for Austen fans.

Book two in The Austen Project is already out – Northanger Abbey, reworked by Val McDermid. Pride & Prejudice will be the third in the series, out later this year, and authored by Curtis Sittenfield.

The other three Austen novels will follow, and I look forward to reading them. All Jane Austen fans – and those who still need to become Austen fans : ) – be sure to take a look at the interesting Austen Project.

Maybe this could catch on with other authors – the Brontes? Wharton? Dickens?


  1. evelyneholingue on July 27, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    I’m not a huge fan of Jane Austen, mostly because I grew up in France and read more French writers than British, unlike my children here in the US. But the Austen Project is a cool idea and since I have read and liked Joanna Trollope in the past I should give a try to Sense and Sensibility. Thank you, Kimberly.

    • kimberlysullivan on July 27, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      You’re right, Evelyne. It is cultural… although I love French literature, too. But I do love the idea of literature as fluid. Even as someone who adores the original Austen, I love the idea of revisiting her works, and placing them in modern times. Because her novels are so tied to themes of family, and social status, and such a brilliant observation of wealth and vanity, they translate quite well to modern times. Looking forward to the next editions. Maybe Hugo or Dumas could be future ‘projects’?

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