If there’s one thing Jane Austen devotees can’t get enough of, it’s Pride and Prejudice. Loyal fans read this classic over and over just to revisit the feeling of sheer joy and total happiness at the final union of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and of course to imagine Mr. Darcy diving into his pond to cool off on a hot day. Austenites pore over each chapter, hating Darcy, loathing Darcy, outright cursing his name, then falling head over heels in love with him just as Elizabeth does. Though all Austenites know the outcome of the book and could nearly quote it in its entirety, the repeated reading of it somehow pays homage to the posthumously-famed novelist who probably never could have dreamed how many women would someday cherish her books.
The success of Pride and Prejudice has not been lost on contemporary novelists. Practically an entire section of any given bookstore is devoted to spin-off novels based on, or inspired by, P&P. Below are ten of the most interesting novels based on her bestseller.
1. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, by Pamela Aidan
This is a trilogy of novels based on Mr. Darcy’s perspective of the events that conspired during Pride and Prejudice, namely his relationship with Elizabeth Bennett. The novels go into great detail describing Darcy’s daily routines, his beliefs, family history, and interests. It gives curious readers a peek into a man much talked about, but very rarely described (other than his smoldering good looks) in Pride and Prejudice. The books that make up this trilogy are:
An Assembly Such as This: An account of Darcy’s first visit to Hertfordshire.
Duty and Desire: A telling of Darcy’s absence in the book, after Hertfordshire and before he meets Elizabeth at Rosings Park.
These Three Remain: The situation that remains after Darcy has confessed his love for Elizabeth at Rosings Park and is rebuked.
2. The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Marjorie Fasman
This is very much a prequel to Pride and Prejudice, an exploration into Darcy’s character that may give the reader some perspective on exactly what made Mr. Darcy tick. What exactly is looming behind those dark, sad eyes? His childhood and adolescence are recounted, as well as his relationship with Mr. Wickham, and their experiences growing up in the same house together. The diary gives insight into Darcy’s thoughts as he first meets Elizabeth Bennett and concludes with their married life.
3. Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, by Elizabeth Aston
This is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, focusing on the married life of Darcy and Elizabeth. Darcy has been sent on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople, leaving Elizabeth with their five daughters in London. Turns out the Darcys wasted no time in having children—five girls, with one set of twins. All full of mystery and personality in their own right, this novel divulges each of the girls’ adventures in London.
4. Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley, by Linda Berdoll
True to form, Elizabeth’s marriage to Mr. Darcy is just as she had hoped—full of passion. This book follows the relationship of the married couple enjoying their conjugal adventures. Sex, children, romance—these two seem to have the perfect marriage.
5. Darcy’s Passions, by Regina Jeffers
One could assume that behind the mysterious exterior of Fitzwilliam Darcy there is a man with intense passion. This book confirms the suspicion while recounting Pride and Prejudice from his point of view. It travels the story from Darcy’s arrival with Mr. Bingley to his obsession with Elizabeth Bennett to his proposal and their marriage.
6. Suspense and Sensibility or, First Impressions Revisited: A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery, by Carrie Bebris
Even though it might make Jane turn over in her grave, this book brings together two of her novels. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, from Pride and Prejudice, agree to host a social season for Elizabeth’s youngest sister, Kitty. Parties, fancy balls, teas, and long walks around London. Kitty meets Henry Dashwood of Norland—you’ll recognize his name from Sense and Sensibility—and immediately falls in love. But, like all Bennett ladies, love does not come simply. Mystery surrounding Mr. Dashwood, his past, unexplained absences, and questionable behavior cause Mr. and Mrs. Darcy to investigate.
7. Jane Austen in Boca: A Novel, by Paula Marantz Cohen
If Austen’s Jewish fans are feeling left out, then this one is for them. Set in a retirement community in Boca Raton, Florida, this story revolves around a Jewish woman desperate to find a husband for her widowed mother. Explore the world of geriatric courtship, full of Austen-like misunderstanding, miscommunication, mistaken identity, and of course, overcoming one’s own pride and prejudice to fall in love … over the age of seventy-five.
8. Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, by Arielle Eckstut, Dennis Ashton
In the nineties, two Austen scholars claim to have unearthed missing manuscripts containing incredibly shocking, never-before-read excerpts of Austen’s most beloved novels. Graphic, yet still quite proper in nature, this novel details these texts—Austen’s most well-known characters engaging in very naughty behavior. Emma’s self-satisfaction. Mr. Collins’ need for Charlotte to “discipline” him. Henry Crawford’s exploration of “brotherly love.” Maybe Austen wasn’t as pure and proper as she would have us all think.
9. Lions and Liquorice, by Kate Fenton
In this modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the roles are reversed. Two brothers, Nick and John Bevan, are searching for love. There’s a “Darcy” character played by a woman, who falls in love with Nick, and like any great Austen novel, their relationship gets off to a rocky start.
10. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” This is how the most unusual of Pride and Prejudice spin-off novels begins. A plague has fallen on a quiet English village. The dead are returning to life and strong-willed Elizabeth Bennett is determined to save her village. That is, until hunky Mr. Darcy shows up. Seth Grahame-Smith takes us through this beloved storyline with as much bickering, flirting, and pursuit, but with the accompaniment of bloodthirsty zombies.
How would Jane feel about these novels? Who’s to say? Maybe she would have rolled her eyes. Maybe she would have cried. Maybe she would have stood and applauded for women daring to go where no Austenite has gone before: Boca. But what we do know is that Jane was a woman who celebrated imagination, passion, and above all, literature. I imagine nothing would please her more than sitting with a cup of tea and poring over these novels with a smile. After all, if we know anything about Austen, it’s that she couldn’t put down a good book.