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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jane Austen's Fifty Shades

Would Jane Austen have written urban pornography today?

Joanna Trollope thinks so

Joanna Trollope, whose contemporary version of Sense and Sensibility will be published later this year, is struck by the original novel’s similarities with E L James’s sexually explicit Fifty Shades of Grey.

“It’s a fascinating novel, as it’s all about money,” she says of Jane Austen’s classic, which was published in 1811. “I have to say, I think Fifty Shades of Grey is all about money.

“If you took the situation and you put it in a student bedsit, it would suddenly be about abuse; it’s the money that elevates what the hero does to an erotic level.”

Trollope adds: “Jane Austen knew that perfectly well – Mr Darcy would not have any sex appeal without Pemberley and owning half of Derbyshire.”

Plausible?  It's hard to imagine the demure spinster writing about spanking and bondage and all that naughty stuff .... but the sexual attraction of money?  As I quoted only yesterday, the founder of the romance novel went on record as ruminating, "A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of."

Or maybe not. While lots of money might make life easier, it does not always bring happiness, and the same rule undoubtedly applies to sexual adventurousness. 

And I am sure Jane Austen would agree.  If she ever thought about it, which I am sure she did not. 


Mark Hubbard said...

There's so much to read in the world that is worthwhile, I know I'll be going to my grave having not read 50 Shades, but think I might have to put a re-read of Sense and Sensibility, the original, on the reading list again.

Joan Druett said...

Exactly the way I feel

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Money in the old days was a must if one wished to acquire one's own horse and carriage and boast of servants, and yet, even back then the modestly wealthy rented houses from the upper echelons of society: Dukes, Earls & Marquesses who owned vast country estates and great chunks of the major cities. Only the lucky ones inherited property.

Ms Austen was a parson's daughter, of fairly modest means but from a good family and they were prudent with money as seen from her diaries.

Ms Trollope was a parson's daughter, a 60s miss during the period of flower power and free sex, who became a novelist and struck it lucky with a big publishing deal on books about the shocking goings on in an English country village. She became modestly rich with TV/movie deals. Prior to that she was penning romance novels as Caroline Harvey, so when Joanna Trollope hit the book stands she was an old hand author not a newbie, but even then she used a tenuous family link (the Great Trollope)as her marketing ploy!

Any author who spouts 50 shades is desperate to jump the bandwagon! :)

Joan Druett said...

Brilliant comment, Francine, especially the last sentence.

There is a huge difference between Austen-style romance, and today's urban pornography. If Ms. Trollope was reinterpreting Georgette Heyer for the modern audience, she would probably say the same thing. And I would be equally saddened.

I will never read 50 shades, and -- like Mark -- will avoid the rewrite of Sense and Sensibility, too.