I heartily enjoy Jane Austen’s six novels (though I find Persuasion divine, and Sense and Sensibility merely good) and I also usually enjoy the manifold film and television representations of her stories. So I was quite excited for PBS’s new Masterpiece Theater season opening with The Complete Jane Austen—broadcasting adaptations of her six novels, along with a Jane Austen biopic. So far new ITV (a British channel) productions of Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and
If I love a book, I usually enjoy seeing an adaptation, even if I think it fails to fully capture the original. And one thing that I am frustrated by is how other ‘fans’ can often become a critical mob, eager to find faults, and unwilling to appreciate the unexpected or something that deviates slightly from their own vision. With these recent Austen adaptations I am a bit perplexed. I’ve read that they’ve trimmed down these versions to fit into a 90 minute running time. I know all the stories well, but I feel like if I didn’t I’d be quite confused. These seem less like complete stories than illustrated Cliffsnotes.
However, I don’t want to become too wacky of a fan. I studied English in college, and the late 18th century/early 19th century in particular, so I always felt a bit self-conscious about the zaniness of Austen-maniacs. In addition to film and television, there’s a whole cottage industry of spin-off books.
What do you think about Austen adaptations? How about the PBS series? And do you ever feel chagrin when you see your fellow fans (whatever your topic of interest might be)?