Jane Austen might be getting on in years (today is her 238th birthday), but that doesn't stop people from loving and reworking her classic novels.

Up next in the long list of Austen re-imaginings is the HarperCollins' Austen Project, in which six beloved contemporary authors provide modern takes on Austen’s classic works. As with every reworking of a classic, we were skeptical. We all get a little protective of our favorite stories, even when in the hands of accomplished writers.senseandsensibility

Kicking off the Austen Project is Joanna Trollope's Sense and Sensibility. It's a pretty straightforward re-imagining, as it transports the Dashwood family drama to modern times. If you're one of those readers groaning, "Not another one!" and judging the cover of Trollope's Sense and Sensibility (complete with earbuds), read what our reviewer had to say about it:

"Trollope does an exceptional job remaining true to the original characters. She accurately captures Austen's classic theme of 'head versus heart,' even as she updates the characters in believable ways (Elinor, for example, is studying architecture). Trollope’s version of Sense and Sensibility reminds the reader that the world may be changing too quickly around us, but matters of the heart remain constant."

Read our full review, plus reviews for two more new Austen tributes.


northangerabbeyNext in the Austen Project is Northanger Abbey by internationally best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, coming in May. Sheltered minister’s daughter Cat Morland loves losing herself in Gothic novels—maybe a bit too much. So when she attends Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and meets Henry Tilney and his sister, Eleanor, she starts getting suspicious of their perfect little lives.

As with Trollope's book, it sounds like we can expect the story to play out like the original, but it will be interesting to see McDermid, "the acknowledged queen of the psychological thriller," take on Austen's famous Gothic parody. Especially after reading this interview, where McDermid says, "I think Jane Austen builds suspense well in a couple of places, but she squanders it, and she gets to the endgame too quickly."

Hmm. What do you think? Does Northanger Abbey have room for improvement?

And coming soon: Emma by Alexander McCall Smith (fall 2014), Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld (2015) and Mansfield Park by . . . ?

Anyway, happy birthday, Jane Austen!

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