Tag Archives: JASP 2019

‘Ayesha at Last’ Author Uzma Jalaluddin Creates a Modern-Day, Muslim Adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

The Jane Austen Summer Program is happy to welcome Canadian author Uzma Jalaluddin to speak at this year’s symposium. Jalaluddin, who lives in a suburb north of Toronto with her husband and two sons, teaches high school and writes for the Toronto Star. Her debut novel, “Ayesha at Last,” is a modern-day Muslim adaptation of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” We got the chance to talk with her about her new novel and her love for Austen.

Ayesha_FinalWhen did your love for Austen, and “Pride and Prejudice” in particular, first begin — are you a long-time fan or a more recent one?

I remember reading “Pride and Prejudice” for the first time. … I was around 15 or 16 years old, and I’ve always just been a voracious reader. I’ve always been hunting libraries and spent a lot of time in the stacks just finding new books to read. … Of course, Jane Austen is classic, so I picked up “Pride and Prejudice,” and I have to say, I remember the first time I read it. It’s a hard read for someone who is raised in North America — the language is a little bit old-fashioned, but the characters just gripped me. Once I got into the story, I loved it. Then I read all of Austen’s works. … But my favorite, of course, is “Pride and Prejudice” because it was my very first entry into Austen’s world.

What did you find either surprisingly simple or difficult about translating Austen’s work across both time and culture?

Like so many books out there, and especially the classics, there’s some universal themes that make them classics. They last for a reason. It’s not just because they’re historical examples — people read them and enjoy them for a reason. Partly, it’s the beautiful language. I’m a debut novelist, so I wasn’t really attempting to go for that level of expertise with the English language. What I wanted to capture was the interesting characters. Now the funny thing about my book is I didn’t set out to write a “Pride and Prejudice” remake. I just wanted to write a romantic comedy that featured Muslim characters because, so often times, people of color, and specifically marginalized communities, especially Muslim communities and others — we don’t really see our stories represented, and if we are represented, it’s always as victims or in unhappy stories. … I wanted to write something about people that I know, that is authentic and that really provides a nuanced view of how Muslims live their lives in North America. That was my goal. In the course of drafting it … a writer friend of mine read it and was like, “You know you’re writing ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ right?” Then I read my book again … and thought, “I can’t believe it.” Then I very consciously decided to lean into it, and I added the overt references to “Pride and Prejudice.”

Is “Ayesha at Last” based on a real location or community in Canada?

It is. It’s really inspired by the way that I grew up. It’s a suburb just east of Toronto called Scarborough. It’s this kind of very diverse suburb of people from literally all over the world. There’s neighborhood pockets. In this kind of melee, I grew up … and I was part of a mosque community. I just wanted to capture that, not so much from a religious point of view, but just that homey sense of belonging. That was part of the book that I really wanted to capture because I think people read Austen also for the homey, family undertones of it.

UJ-9579webIf you could have dinner with any Austen character, who would it be, and why?

I find Emma fascinating — what made her tick, and why did she think that she knew what was best for everyone else? I would just love to sit down and let her talk about the way that she sees the world. I also think Lydia is kind of a brat and would be a really great dinner companion because I could see her jumping around from topic to topic. I wouldn’t want her around all the time, but for dinner? Yeah, I could go with Lydia — but I think me and Lizzy would be buddies.

As a teacher, columnist and author, what advice would you give to other writers? What writing advice helps you the most in your own writing?

Don’t give up. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. I take advice from other writers, so I love this advice from Stephen King. He has this line that said, “Life isn’t a support system for your art, it’s the other way around,” meaning that your art is supposed to enrich your life, but you don’t live for your art. … So that really helped. The other thing that really helped was finding my people — finding my fellow writers that really understand the process.

Ayesha at Last” is available in Canada, and will be out in Britain, Australia and New Zealand in April. It will be published in the United States in June. Register today to hear Jalaluddin speak at JASP on Friday, June 21.

There’s a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for that

Depending on your mood, there’s a “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation out there for you, whether in movie or serial form. And the ones below aren’t the only adaptations out there either!

tp.prideandprejudice.0.0.jpgClassic: You can’t go wrong with the 1995 adaptation, written by Andrew Davies, who — for better or worse — sexed up the material with the infamous Darcy wet-shirt scene. Like it or not, Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle defined the characters, and all other iterations are compared to them.

Hidden gem: The 1980 adaptation gets overlooked, but it features compelling turns by Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul as Lizzie and Darcy. This is one to discover if you haven’t seen it.

Boldest: “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” brings “Pride and Prejudice” to the 21st century with this vlog-format web series that transforms Lizzie into a struggling communications grad student and Darcy into a hipster one-percenter. 

Music and dance: Gurinder Chadha’s Bollywood take on Austen, “Bride and Prejudice,” stands out for its soundtrack and dances.  Warning: Once “No Life Without Wife” gets in your head, it may never leave. And as beautiful as traditional English country dances are in period adaptations, the dances in this film make you want to get up on your feet, too.

1940 “Pride and Prejudice”

Lighthearted: Okay, so it’s not the most faithful adaptation — the costumes alone! — but Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier bring the chemistry in the 1940 adaptation, written in part by Aldous Huxley. Best scene in this adaptation: Darcy mansplaining (a fully capable) Lizzy about archery. 

Outlandish: 2016’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s supernatural adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice”  in which the Bennets and Mr. Darcy must fight off zombie hordes. If you’re in the mood for an inventive mashup, this is one to watch. Just close your eyes during the gory parts.


Funniest Collins: Mr. Collins is the punchline in most every adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” but if you’re looking for the funniest, my money’s on Matt Smith as the bumbling parson in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Just watch the outtakes if nothing else.

Confessionals: If you’re into heroines pouring out their souls, it’s a tossup between “Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” with characters who look directly at the camera, and “Bridget Jones’s Diaries,” whose heroine loves journaling like nobody’s business.

lydiagif.gifBest Lydia: In the “Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” Mary Kate Wiles (pictured here) portrays Lydia with a vulnerability not often seen in iterations of the character. This Lydia is feisty and always down for a good time — but she’s also craving her sisters’ attention and approval, and her story arc with Wickham is heartbreaking.

Fight scenes: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” wins the prize for fight scenes. Sparks fly when Lizzy and Darcy spar — not just figuratively but literally, weapons in hand. And it’s not just Lizzy who enters the fray — the Bennet sisters are a force to be reckoned with.

2005 “Pride and Prejudice”

Nature: The cinematography in the 2005 adaptation really highlights the natural backdrops to the action. You can’t help notice the wild beauty of England when you see Lizzy on a rocky outcrop or Bingley practicing his proposal with Darcy by an idyllic pond.

“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”

Female friendships: “Lizzie Bennet Diaries” explores complicated female relationships from many angles. Lizzie grapples with change as Jane’s romance with Bingley blooms; Lizzie and Lydia try to find common ground; Lizzie and Charlotte navigate changes in their friendship and in their professional partnership as the series progresses. But their bonds, though tested, are unbreakable.

Do you have a favorite adaptation? Let us know!


The stately homes that would be Pemberley

“She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!”

In film adaptations, Lizzy is stunned when she sees the Pemberley — and so is the viewer. What real-life stately homes have stood in for Darcy’s (sadly fictional) estate? Here’s a sampling:

Chatsworth (Photo: Jennifer Abella)

Chatsworth House in Derbyshire in northern England was the shooting location for some Pemberley scenes in the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice” and 2013’s “Death Comes to Pemberley.” Although it’s undergone many changes over its lifetime, Chatsworth has been the home of the Cavendishes (Duke and Duchess of Devonshire) dating to the 16th century. When you watch the films, keep an eye out for the checkered floor of Chatsworth’s grand Painted Hall. And in the 2005 film, you’ll see the sculpture gallery, too. Fun fact No. 1: Yes, Chatsworth does still have that bust of Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) from the movie. Fun fact No. 2: If the house and Keira Knightley give you deja vu, it’s because she returned to Chatsworth to film her role as Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, in the 2008 film “The Duchess.”

Inside Wilton House

Other interior scenes in the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice” were filmed at Wilton House, the home of the Earl of Pembroke since 1544, in Salisbury, England. If the room looks familiar in the scene where Lizzy meets Georgiana, it’s because it was also used for scenes in the Netflix series “The Crown.” The exterior was recently seen in 2017’s “Tomb Raider” with Alicia Vikander.

In “Death Comes to Pemberley,” some of the interior scenes were filmed at Yorkshire’s Harewood House, which dates to the 18th century. Fun fact: Jenna Coleman — who played Lydia in “Death Comes to Pemberley” — stars as the young titular queen in the PBS TV series “Victoria,” which has also filmed at Harewood.

The Pemberley in the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” is also an amalgam of a number of stately homes in Britain. Lyme Park in Cheshire, with its Italianate facade, served as the exterior of Pemberley in the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s been the home of the Legh family for 600 years. If you go, it offers a “Pride and Prejudice” walking tour, including, yes, The Pond (the site of the Darcy “wet shirt” scene — although several ponds were used in filming).

Sudbury Hall was used for the interiors of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, including the flashback scene to the library at Pemberley with Darcy and Wickham. The late-17th-century house is situated in Derbyshire, about 30 miles from Chatsworth. Sudbury is also home to the National Trust Museum of Childhood, highlighting the lives of children over the centuries.

Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire was also used for Pemberley’s interiors, as well as acting as Cambridge in the Darcy-at-university flashbacks. The abbey was founded in 1232, although the original cloister was torn down in the 1400s and replaced with the current structure. The home, which has undergone many renovations, is also the birthplace of photography: William Henry Fox Talbot created the first photographic negative here in 1835. (You might also have seen Lacock Abbey in “Wolf Hall.”) The village of Lacock also stood in for Meryton.

Renishaw Hall

Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire was Pemberley in the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. It’s been home to the Sitwell family for well more than 400 years. It’s said to have inspired D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.” The home is known for its Italianate gardens.