Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 15 2013 01:00PM

I love Jane Austen updates, Austen spinoffs that translate the familiar stories and beloved characters to contemporary settings.

I’ve read versions of Persuasion set in the worlds of Boston philanthropy and Scarsdale college admissions, a Sense and Sensibility that takes place during the Bath Jane Austen Festival, and a Mansfield Park featuring high school students in a summer theater program. I was crazy about “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” the hit 2012-13 web series that reimagined Pride and Prejudice as the video blog of a struggling communications grad student in California.

At their best, these stories are both clever Janeite scavenger hunts (“Ooh, look! Instead of falling off the Cobb at Lyme, the Louisa Musgrove character contracts Lyme disease!”) and sweetly enjoyable romances in their own right. They combine the pleasures of familiarity and novelty, comfort food with special sauce. And they sidestep the biggest pitfall awaiting Austen sequel writers who stick to the Regency – the inevitably humbling effort to write prose that sounds convincingly like Jane Austen’s.

Reginald Hill’s Sanditon spinoff, The Price of Butcher’s Meat, the subject of today’s Sanditon Summer post, is an Austen update with a twist: the book is both a continuation of Austen’s fragment (the title comes from Sanditon) and the twenty-third installment in Hill’s long-running series of mystery novels featuring the Yorkshire detectives Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe.

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