Let’s talk enemies-to-lovers in the style of Jane Austen
I’m not sure that modernized adaptations of classics are technically a trope, but hey, adaptations of Pride and Prejudice also fit the enemies-to-lovers trope, so I’m going with it.
Recently, I finally got around to reading Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev, which has been on my list for a while.
When I first graduated from college and had free time for reading again, I read a lot of modernized takes on Jane Austen stories. So, I consider myself fairly well-versed in this particular area of modern romance, and thought it would be fun to take a look at a couple of fun, modern takes on the most popular of Austen’s works — Pride and Prejudice.
The two I’m going to write about today are Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors and another favorite of mine, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.
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On Adapting Austen
There’s a reason that people are still paying homage to Jane Austen’s works. In spite of how much has changed in society, her books remain imminently witty, fun, and relatable.
Austen was one of the greats at romance and cultural critique, her wit sparking off the page in even the lesser-known and lesser-loved works, like my own beloved Northanger Abbey.
For all that I love a good, faithful film adaptation or re-read of an Austen novel, there’s something fun about the modernized twists on her classic stories, as well. They range from the Austen-inspired, like Clueless, to the fairly faithful retelling with a modern twist, like The Lizzie Bennett Diaries.
And then, there are the stories that take Austen’s originals as a jumping off point to create something new, while still giving fans the chance to wink and nod at how the stories mirror and draw their hearts from Austen.
Eligible sits somewhere between a modernized retelling and an “inspired by” Pride and Prejudice title, whereas I would categorize Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors as more of a remixed nod to the original story.
Let’s dig in to how each of these authors tackles the task of bringing Liz Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy into the modern age.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
I was, perhaps, a bit biased in favor of this book from the moment I read its synopsis. A modernized take on Pride & Prejudice that takes place in my very own beloved hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio? What’s not to love?
Maybe these expectations were a bit too great, however, and my first read of the title fell a little flat. This book takes our beloved characters and pulls them into the modern day, and much of Darcy’s initial behavior rubs Lizzie the wrong way because he’s got nothing good to say about… Cincinnati.
There’s a lot to love about this adaptation, all the same. Sittenfeld captures the spirit of the characters well, bringing them into modern life without losing their essence. Lizzie is a journalist in a strained long-term open relationship, Mrs. Bennett enjoys reality TV, and the youngest Bennetts are obsessed with fad diets and CrossFit.
There are also plenty of mentions of Cincinnati’s own Skyline Chili. The familiarity of my city and Darcy’s slow admittance that it’s a place one can enjoy living was fun.
I think for me, this story leaned a bit too far into the cynical aspects of a more modern romance, and didn’t leave me with that fluffy romance novel feel in the way that other adaptations have done.
I still recommend this book to Austen fans because it is a witty and worthwhile modernization, but do extend the caution that some of the cheery charm is rubbed off a bit, at least for me.
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
Dev takes the ingredients of Pride and Prejudice and remixes them into a gender-bent, diverse exploration of the Elizabeth and Darcy dynamic.
Our prideful character, Trisha, is the daughter of Indian royalty, though her family has since immigrated to America where their status is more upper-class elite than royal. She is a highly specialized neurosurgeon who excels in her field — and knows it.
Our would-be Darcy who takes on more of the Elizabeth role in this narrative is DJ (Darcy James), an extraordinary chef who grew up in relative poverty with his mother and sister — who is a patient of Trisha’s.
As you would expect from a story with pride and prejudice in the title, the two do not get along at first — or second, or even third interaction.
This modern twist on the story takes far more liberties with the storyline than Eligible, creating a book that is much more loosely inspired by the original rather than a retelling.
While this creates a fun, interesting story, I do sort of wish the title hadn’t hinted so much that this would be a retelling. It took me a little while to understand how different this book would be — a similar flavor rather than a copycat dish, to borrow the book’s food-centric language.
Once I released my expectations and pre-conceived notions of what the book was going to be, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend the book to fans of Austen and modern romance novels alike.
There are so many takes on Pride and Prejudice out there, and this post only just scratches the surface.
Between the films, YouTube series, books, board games, etc, one could probably spend a great deal of time trying to capture them all and still come up short.
Nevertheless, these two books are an excellent starting place if you’re looking to get into the wide world of modern adaptations, or looking for the next read on your journey.
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