Persuasion, by Jane Austen, revolves around Anne Elliot, the only sensible living member of the Elliots of Kellynch Hall, a family struggling to finance their exorbitant lifestyle in 19th Century England. Anne’s evolution from a persuadable, cautious youth to a mature romantic has inspired scores of modern retellings, five of which I discuss here.
In these reimagined versions of Persuasion, each modern author highlights some aspects of Austen’s original while omitting others. It’s risky to deviate from a beloved classic. What do you keep? Why? What new elements do you introduce? No retelling can ever live up to the original, but, hopefully, it will remind readers of what they love about the original while introducing them to something new and worth reading for its own merits.
These are the Persuasion adaptations I read this month (listed in chronological order by year of publication):
In this modern tale, Anne Elliot is Annie Markham, the daughter of a rude and egotistical businessman who desperately needs a management consultant to stay afloat. That consultant turns out to be Annie’s ex-boyfriend, Jake Mead. Their relationship broke apart so viciously that I almost didn’t want them to get back together, but the pair manages to overcome their differences and live happily ever after.
This modern adaptation of Persuasion stars Anna Elliot, a professor in England who broke Rick Wentworth’s heart when she pursued a degree in Russian at Oxford instead of running off with him. I’ll be honest that I would’ve made the same choice as Anna―call me a “hopeless academic” 😉 ―but I was definitely rooting for Anna and Rick the second time around.
In this post-apocalyptic retelling Persuasion, Anne Elliot is Elliot North, the daughter of a wasteful “Luddite.” The Luddites own the estates on which the “Posts” and the “Reduced” live and work as servants. Elliot falls in love with Kai, a “Post” servant, but their young relationship is doomed. Years later, Kai returns with a new name, Captain Malakai Wentforth, and a new purpose: challenging the social order. This novel borrows heavily from Persuasion, but its setting and additional themes make it a refreshing homage to Austen’s classic novel.
Set in Old Lyme, Connecticut, this modern adaptation of Persuasion emphasizes the romantic elements of Austen’s original―focusing on Hanna Elliot and Derick Wentworth’s second chance at love―while downplaying other themes of Austen’s work, such as the Elliot family’s tenuous financial circumstances. In fact, Hanna isn’t even related to the Sir Walter-based character in this retelling, and she has only one sister, Mary. Overall, it’s a clean romance that lovers of Austen’s original tale are likely to enjoy.
While I was on the subject of Persuasion retellings, I decided to read my own adaptation for the first time since I published it in 2015. Enough time has passed since I wrote it that it actually felt somewhat new (and I no longer felt the urge to edit it!). This story takes place in my hometown just outside of Philadelphia, where the Elkins family lives in a crumbling mansion on a 34-acre estate (based on a real place). After the matriarch dies under suspicious circumstances, the family turns to the civil court system to seek justice for her death. Their lawyer is Amelia’s ex, a man with no intention of rekindling his romance with the woman who broke his heart, especially if doing so could amount to an ethical violation. After all, lawyers aren’t supposed to date their clients.
You’d think reading a series of novels, back-to-back, all based on the same classic source would get “old” eventually, but I guess I haven’t hit my limit of Persuasion spin-offs yet. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks!