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Friday, March 09, 2018

Book Blogger Hop: Do You Enjoy Retellings Of, or Sequels To, Classic Novels

Well, this question is about books, reading and stories. And yes, I do. If I didn’t, my reading choices would be much more limited. Broadening it to “classic stories” lets me include Shakespeare. There are so very many books and films inspired by Shakespeare. Romeo And Juliet turns up everywhere, but an example is West Side Story, in which the feuding Montagues and Capulets become two street gangs, the Jets(Montagues) and the Sharks(Capulets) and who wouldn’t love the film version with the aerial shots of the dancers in the streets of New York?

Kurosawa did at least two films based on Shakespeare, Throne Of Blood(Macbeth) and Ran(King Lear). Shakespeare translates to Japan!

American rom-com She’s The Man takes Twelfth Night to a high school soccer team. That one is great fun, and I have used it with my Year 8 English classes.

 I have to confess, I have an unfinished YA novel inspired by Much Ado About Nothing. Benedick and the other soldiers are a high school boys’ footy team. Must finish!

And if the Japanese film industry borrowed from English language classics, the Americans returned the compliment with The Magnificent Seven borrowed from Japanese classic The Seven Samurai, not to mention The Hidden Fortress providing inspiration for Star Wars.

You probably know that Clueless was a Hollywood version of Jane Austen’s Emma, both the original and the film hugely entertaining. And I loved Bride And Prejudice, which took Austen’s original to modern India, the Bennets becoming the Bakshis and dancing around the streets, singing, Bollywood style. Amazing how well it translated.

But let’s go to books. Sophie Masson, Kate Forsyth and Juliet Marillier, all of whom live in Australia, by the way, are wonderful fairytale re-tellers. Juliet Marillier has done quite a few, for example the Sevenwaters series beginning with Daughter Of The Forest, which sets “The Six Swans” in mediaeval Ireland, Heart’s Blood which also sets “Beauty And The Beast” in mediaeval Ireland.

Kate Forsyth has done a wonderful version of Rapunzel, Bitter Greens, in which the witch is an Italian courtesan who once modelled for Titian. Her historical novel The Beast’s Garden, takes a Grimm fairytale, “The Singing, Springing Lark” to Nazi Germany. It’s a sort of “Beauty and The Beast” story. A fabulous book! I loved it. And in case you hadn’t noticed she likes fairytales, there is The Wild Girl, about the girl next door to the Grimms. She told them a large chunk of the folk tales they wrote down and married one of them. Another favourite.

Sophie Masson has done a lot in this area, but I’ll discuss two of her fairytale re-tellings. Moonlight And Ashes, which I have reviewed on this blog, is a very enjoyable version of  “Ashenputtel”, the Grimm version of “Cinderella”. It’s set in the 19th century, with steam trains and newspapers. Hunter’s Moon is set in the same universe as Moonlight And Ashes. It’s “Snow White” with the father being the owner of a chain of department stores. The mirror is The Mirror, a newspaper which annoys the stepmother by proclaiming Bianca/Snow White the Fairest, an annual thing. It certainly worked for me.

Sophie Masson has also edited a series of fairytale and mythology re-tellings published by Christmas Press. They’re gorgeously illustrated, written by some of Australia’s top children’s writers, plus at least one from outside Australia, Adele Geras, who re-told “Beauty And The Beast” and “Bluebeard”. I should add that when I got my Year 7 kids to do a fractured fairytale I read them “Bluebeard”, which gave one student an idea for, not a fractured fairytale, but a version of his own, told by Bluebeard, and dear me, it was a chilling piece! It was totally publishable, in my opinion. I hope it will turn up at least in the school anthology.

Look, there are heaps of amazing re-tellings and sequels, but that will do me for now.

Do you have any favourites?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - I did see the digitally released version of Ran - which was superb. I haven't thought about the others ... but must educate myself that way ... great to see your thoughts - cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hope you’ll enjoy the others as much as I did. I believe Bitter Greens is doing well everywhere and shouldn’t be hard to get.

Maria Behar said...

Oh, you've mentioned films, as well! How interesting! I haven't seen any of them, though, except for "West Side Story", which, of course, I LOVE!!

As for fairy tale retellings, I LOVE a YA novel titled "Of Beast and Beauty", which has a science fiction setting. VERY original! I HIGHLY recommend it!! I'm giving you the Goodreads link here:

How EXCITING that you're working on a YA retelling of "Much Ado About Nothing"!! Hope you finish it soon and get it published!! :)

This week, I participated in the Book Blogger Hop with my other blog, MindSpirit Book Journeys. Here's the link:

Thanks for sharing!! Hope you're having a GREAT Sunday!! <3 :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Maria! Thanks for the suggestions, which I will, of course, check out,

I do recommend Clueless and She’s The Man, both very funny, and the Japanese movies are classics! You should be able to get hold of any of th m easily.

Terry Morris said...

Yes, please finish that book, it sounds like fun.

Re modernised versions, one I admire is "What Women Want" - I'd always thought there was a way to retell The Wyfe of Bath's tale of the loatthly wife, but the rape was a stumbling block. In What Women Want it's turned into a theft of ideas in an advertising agency, and then the guy gets stuck with telepathically hearing what women want whether he likes it or not :)

One I don't admire is an anime series that's supposed to be Romeo and Juliet - Juliet is some kind of Robin Hood figure and the rightful heir of the kingdom and Romeo is being drawn into this mysterious person's adventures. It would be really fun if they weren't meant to be Romeo and Juliet.

Others that annoy are when the story is supposed to be from the villain's point of view, but they just make the villain sweet and more sinned against than sinning, and so much sugar is a bit sickening.

Otoh, an anime series I love is Gankutsuou, the Count of Monte Cristo. It both illuminates and makes me want to read the book properly.

She's The Man sounds like one to watch out for.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Terry! I haven’t heard of most of those you mention. The Wife Of Bath’s Tale is more or less a retelling of the story of Dame Ragnell and Sir Gawain. In it, nobody commits rape. King Arthur gets into trouble, can’t recall why, but Gawain offers to marry the Loathly Lady and then, being the gentleman he is, suggests she has the right to decide the whole ugly by day/by night matter. The Wife Of Bath, of course, would sneer at that, and, in her view, he has been put in his place when he hands over the option to his wife, the natural ruler!

I agree that there’s not much point in having a villain if he isn’t villainous! :-) At the same time, no point in making him one dimensional. Draco Malfoy, for example, is not a nice person in the course of the Harry Potter series, but by Book 6, he has become a frightened teenage boy who has got in over his head. In the final book, he is nearly killed because he won’t leave his sidekick to die. Even his awful parents find they love him more than the Cause. This doesn’t make any of them sweet, but it does develop them as characters.