A friend recently pointed me in the direction of the Jane Austen retelling contest on the Homeschooled Authors website. Since the contest closes May 31, 2016, I know I won't have a story ready in time, but I am excited to see the anthology in print. <http://www.homeschooledauthors.com/2015/06/short-story-contest.html>
After reading about this contest, I was inspired to collect two short lists here: a list of my favorite published Jane Austen retellings, and a list of my favorite other female authors from around the time of Jane Austen.
Favorite Retellings and Completions
Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady (Mary Dobbs). This is hands down the best pseudo-Austen I've ever read. The tone is right, the characters are right--this book is thoroughly light and bright and sparkling. The main character, Charlotte, is smart, sensible, and capable. Even being abducted doesn't distress her.
George Knightley Esquire: Charity Envieth Not & Lend Me Leave, a two-book Emma retelling by Barbara Cornthwaite. The author gives endless, fascinating details to the historical setting, creating a thorough grounding for George Knightley's world. These books are also explicitly Christian.
Emma Watson, by Joan Aiken. This completion of "The Watsons" is pretty good, aside from her rejection of Austen's original plan for the story. I don't generally like Aiken's takes on Austen--her "Eliza's Daughter" is just chilling, and her favorable depiction of the Crawfords in "Mansfield Revisited" is troubling. There are nicer completions of this work out there; John Coates' "The Watsons" is good. I can't recall the author of my favorite version, which I read many times in my teen years.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman - 3 book series by Pamela Aidan. I like the first and third books, especially the parts that depict Georgianna and her Pimpernel-esque admirer!
Favorite Lady Authors of the Austen Era
Frances "Fanny" Burney was an authoress and playwright whose works Austen herself enjoyed. She often describes a higher tier of society than Austen did--in part because she travelled in it. She was a royal lady-in-waiting for a number of years! Her first book, "Evelina," is my favorite. It is full of all the tropes of Georgian sentimental fiction, like unexpected relatives, French people, long letters, and moral and social dilemmas worthy of a soap opera, but it is also full of brilliant characterization and a subtle sense of humor.
Maria Edgeworth also started writing some years before Austen did. She wrote novels of Ireland, like "The Absentee," but also novels of manners in English society like "Belinda" and "Patronage." "Patronage" is probably my favorite. Originally a four-volume novel, it has multiple story lines, lively depictions of English country and city life, and great character development. I love the fact that her heroines wrestle with the moral dimension of choosing, or indeed not choosing, a husband; they ultimately make decisions based on principle, not just on feelings. Edgeworth was a Christian authoress.
Elizabeth Gaskell was in the writing generation after Austen. She was interested in causes like the working conditions of laborers and what would eventually come to be called women's rights (although I don't think that it was called that in her time). All her books show strong female characters (often ones who are in conflict with one another). I think that "Wives and Daughters" is the most fun to read (although, alas! She died before finishing it), but W&D, "North and South," and "Cranford" have all been made into miniseries by the BBC.
Speaking of miniseries and other Austen media... are you all excited to see the new version of Lady Susan, "Love and Friendship?" I can't wait until it comes out in theaters! :)