Hi everyone! A trend I have noticed recently is the amount of retellings of stories that appearing on bookshelves. This is not a new movement but I have been more aware of them coming out recently. Retellings are also very important for me this year as I am dedicating my entire Dissertation to the retellings of Classical literature. Retellings come in all different shapes and sizes, some aim to take secondary characters and make them the protagonist whereas others seek to place the events of the original work into a modern setting. Today’s blog is about sharing my favourite retellings!
- Wide Sargasso Sea- Jean Rhys. I am slightly obsessed with Jean Rhys’ writing. Her novel Voyage in the Dark is one of my all time favourites but I first discovered her through reading Wide Sargasso Sea. The Jane Eyre retelling appeared on a first year module at university. Rhys takes Charlotte Bronte’s Bertha Mason and transforms her from a the mute madwoman in the attic of Thornfield Hall into Antionette Cosway, a vocal heiress.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary- Helen Fielding. Something you might need to know about me. I love Pride and Prejudice. For me it is one of the greatest works of fiction in the English language. I could discuss it for hours and I could watch the 2005 film adaptation every day and still not get sick of it. Helen Fielding’s contemporary take on the central plot of Austen’s masterpiece is a fun read. The first book in this series is the only one I’ve gotten through because the others, especially The Edge of Reason, give me such a great sense of second hand embarrassment I can’t finish them.
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- Seth Grahame-Smith. Another Pride and Prejudice retelling. This one is definitely aimed towards younger readers. The themes around marriage, gender politics etc are all still involved but the language is a lot easier to engage with. The addition of zombie threats into the Regency world of marriage is one that I found hilarious. I think that a retelling like this makes older works more accessible to younger readers therefore is a brilliant way to get those original stories across to newer readers.
- Telling Tales- Patience Agbabi. For someone who has studied her fair share of Chaucer Patience Agbabi’s retelling is a masterpiece. Gone is Chaucer’s middle English which is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to try and decipher and in it’s place is modern poetry in various forms. Agbabi produces comedy in the contemporary use of references and as each pilgrim gets their own unique form of poem their individual voices become much louder than the subtleties employed by Chaucer.
- The Song of Achilles- Madeline Miller. As I mentioned at the beginning my entire Dissertation is based on Classical retellings. Homer’s The Iliad is the father of Western literature. What Miller does with The Song of Achilles is interprets Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship as one based on romantic love rather than familial/comradeship. This brings an entirely new depth to Achilles’ behaviour as well as his death. The tension between Hector and Achilles at the end feels more raw in Miller’s novel than in the epic poem and it is an incredible standalone piece of fiction as well as a glorious retelling for modern audiences.
So another day, another Blogtober post complete. This has definitely been my favourite so far to write. There is just something about finding a story you love and seeing it bee transformed into something else. There are definite needs for retellings in literature. At university I looked at how rewriting Shakespeare plays for child audiences can help both children and older readers get a first impression of Shakespeare’s work as sometimes the plot is hard to engage with. In cases like Wide Sargasso Sea we can see how attitudes towards minorities have changed over time. More and more women from older texts are being a voice that they did not have access to in their original works and I cannot wait to research the female voices in Classical literature this year. Hope you have had a great start to your week!