'Jane Austen (can we really believe that name? I imagine some corpulent copywriter with a tax-bill to pay) makes a very poor fist of Mrs Bennett'

I've been reading Pride and Prejudice recently, a novelisation of Andrew Davies's classic television series of the same name. The paperback is adorned with a full colour photograph of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie, so I think there's little doubt that it is a shameless attempt to cash in on the success of the original, now drawing over 9m viewers every week. And while I don't want to sound puritanical about it, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the liberties that have been taken with Mr Davies's creation.

There are those, of course, who defend such translations of a work of art into another medium. They believe that such processes bring the work to a new audience. And though they concede that most purchasers of the book will simply wolf it down unthinkingly and pass on, they argue that a few might be introduced to the rarefied intellectual pleasures of the classic serial. If a coarsening of the original intention takes place, then that is a reasonable price to pay.

There is something to be said for this argument, it's true, but I'm not convinced it can survive the indignities of the actual text. As you turn the pages it becomes clear that there is no thought of fidelity in the mind of the hack who has produced this catchpenny spin-off. On page after page, glaring errors and omissions can be found, suggesting that the writer has no feel for the merits of Mr Davies's work, no respect for the genre conventions of the television serial.

Take the characterisation first of all: Jane Austen (can we really believe that name? I imagine some corpulent copy-writer with a tax-bill to pay) makes a very poor fist of Mrs Bennett. Instead of Davies's immortal creation - a character that bears comparison to some great television predecessors - Bet Lynch in Coronation Street, Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances - we are offered a strangely depleted version. Not unamusing, to be fair but you can't quite shake off the feeling that this is a woman you might meet in the street, that she might live next door to you. Austen, I'm afraid, has no real flair for grotesque caricature.

At least with Mrs Bennett you feel she has tried. But Darcy is subject to truly perverse alterations. He is several times described as smiling in the book when everyone knows that Darcy's unchanging facial expression is that of a man who has just been obliged to shoot his own dog - that fixed scowl is what gives the early parts of the story its distinctive flavour. Austen's Darcy lacks this striking clarity; if you were being kind you might describe her account of him as ambiguous. Vague would be closer to the truth.

There are numerous other instances of small betrayals. The socio-political context - so deftly sketched in by Davies with vignettes of the coachmen drunkenly aping their "betters" outside the assembly rooms - is completely missing in the Austen version, as if she simply couldn't be bothered to address the question of the rural poor in squirarchical economies. Speeches are lifted from one scene and placed elsewhere: Lizzie's teasing about Mr Wickham's defection, for example, ("Handsome men must have something to live on, as well as the plain") is no longer made to his face, as it is on screen, but in an aside to an aunt - which makes Lizzie appear almost decorous, rather than the feisty coquette we know and love.

Worst of all, and most mysteriously, there is hardly a word about the clothes, the interiors, the meals. Where Davies gives you a cornucopia of period detail, rich in colour and texture, Austen supplies only the most cursory descriptions. Such things are harder in prose, it's true, but Austen's indolence in this respect is unforgiveable. All she seems to care about is what people do and what they feel, not what they look like and what they wear.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions