The Jane Austen Centre, in Bath, has declared December 16 to be Jane Austen Day. Today also just happens to be her birthday! We’ve compiled a list of ways that you can celebrate this influential woman’s birthday (and now day of honor!). So sit back, relax, and behave naturally…
Is there a better way to celebrate Austen than by reading her books? We think not. In Austen’s life, she wrote six full novels and was working on a seventh that was incomplete when she died in 1817. Her notable works include Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1814). Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published by her siblings in 1818. Her final and unfinished novel, Sanditon, was published and can be read. What’s your favorite Austen novel? Have you read them all?
There are numerous film adaptations of the Austen novels (because they’re that good). We chose one per book—except for Pride and Prejudice because we simply could not choose just one. What are your favorites? Watch one today to celebrate!
Sense and Sensibility
The 1995 adaptation from director Ang Lee features Emma Thompson (who also wrote the script) as Elinor Dashwood and Kate Winslet as Marianne. After an unfortunate circumstance causes this wealthy family to seek financial security though marriage, Elinor and Marianne seek out suitors. Colonel Brandon (aka Snape—we mean, Alan Rickman) falls in love with Marianne at first sight, but she is more interested in the (evil) John Willoughby. Hugh Grant is also in this one—so that give this adaptation extra points.
Pride and Prejudice
We picked the BBC miniseries from 1995 staring Colin Firth. The role of Mr. Darcy really helped Firth’s career take off—and deservingly so. This six-episode series did a wonderful job of adapting the book and even won an Emmy for costume design. We also chose the recent 2005 adaptation which features Kiera Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen in the roles of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. The film was targeted towards a younger audience and was a great revamp of the previous adaptations.
The 1999 film is a loosely based on the novel, but is still a great watch nonetheless. The movie incorporates much of Jane Austen’s life into the film—which is openly stated in the credits. Fanny Price somewhat resembles Austen (giving her a little more spark) throughout the novel as she is pursued by Henry Crawford but is truly in love with her childhood friend, Edmund.
This was a tough pick, and while the 1996 adaptation with Gwyneth Paltrow is an exceptional version, we’ve featured the 2009 BBC miniseries. Romola Garai does a fantastic job portraying Emma, while Jonny Lee Miller (now playing Sherlock Holmes on Elementary) was a superb choice for Mr. Knightly. The four-part series gives Austen lovers a thorough adaptation.
The PBS film from 2007 genuinely portrays Austen’s novel. Felicity Jones is very relatable to audiences and it’s also an opportunity to see Carrie Mulligan pre-Gatsby and An Education. Northanger Abbey is a particularly influential novel for book lovers as it follows Catherine Morland and her blurred lines between fiction and reality. A true classic, this is a must-watch.
Apparently BBC does fantastic adaptations, because our final pick is also from the broadcaster. In 1995, there were four Austen adaptations including Persuasion. It was a notable part of increasing popularity for Austen’s novels. The story follows Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, nine years after Anne rejected Wentworth’s proposal. Amanda Root’s performance has been praised and it’s definitely one to watch.
If you’re really looking to get into the spirit there are many gifts to honor Austen and her brilliant novels.
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