BWW Review: Spend Valentine's Day Curled Up with Great Reinterpretations Of Classic Literary Couples!
Happy Valentine's Day!
To celebrate the most romantic day of the year, why not fall in love with a new favorite book?
While I'm not a huge reader of romance novels, I definitely read a lot of books that have romance in them. One of my favorite things to read is a good retelling. Fairy tale, mythology, classic novels, you name it. I just love a good update to a great story.
There are so many classic love stories that have withstood the test of time, and are so beloved that authors frequently update and retell them. I'm constantly finding great new retellings to add to my TBR.
This Valentine's Day, why not curl up with a great retelling that lets you relive the magic of these iconic characters?
1. MISS ELIZABETH BENNET & MR. FITZWILLIAM DARCY
--From PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
Jane Austen's most popular novel has been retold countless times. There's just something about that hate-to-love story that is so much fun to read, which is probably why authors--and readers--just can't get enough this warring duo!
- Last year, AMERICAN WIFE author Curtis Sittenfeld came out with a modern-day interpretation entitled ELIGIBLE that was buzzed about all over social media. What would happen if Liz was fast approaching 40 and her mother, desperate to have her settle down before it's too late, sets her up with the new doctor in town?
- Have you seen the movie Bridget Jones's Diary? Did you know it was based on a book by British author Helen Fielding? AND that it was inspired by P&P? (What, you mean the name Mark Darcy doesn't give it all away?) The first movie is pretty true to the book and will you have rolling over laughing. If you want a more humorous retelling, definitely take a peek at the book that inspired the hit movie!
- Want a P&P retelling for the teen in your life? Look no further than the sweet, fluffy PROM AND PREJUDICE by Elizabeth Eulberg! She's written a lot of great contemporary YA novels that read fast, have engaging characters, and are utterly adorable. Plus, P&P set during prom? How cute is that??
2. PERSEPHONE AND HADES
--From various tales in Greek Mythology
One of my all-time favorite Greek myths is the tale of Persephone and Hades. I will pick up just about any re-interpretation of this tale, and have seen some really great retellings--especially in YA literature!
- I HAVE to start with my favorite novel of 2016, A COURT OF MIST AND FURY by Sarah J. Maas. Not only was this book inspired by my favorite myth, the first book in the series, A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, was inspired by one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast--and it was my favorite book of 2015! While Maas is technically classified as a teen author, her books are rated Mature and have a huge adult following. These could easily live in the adult fantasy section instead of teen, and if you want original stories mixed with flavors of beloved retellings, this is one series you won't want to miss!
- THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi was another fantastic retelling of this classic myth to release in 2016. (And, ironically, it was blurbed by Sarah J. Maas!) I loved the Indian mythology added to this tale and the way the world came to life. This book was also a little Beauty and the Beast-ish because it deals with curses, and the star-crossed romance of Maya and Amar was full of great chemistry. I liked that this was different from the traditional retellings of this tale!
- My other favorite retelling of this tale is SOLSTICE by PJ Hoover. I read this one when dystopian novels were the trendiest genre around. I love the way global warming is mixed into the fantasy of this myth. When you think about it, so much of Persephone's tale revolves around death and rebirth, winter and spring, the pull between husband and mother. This is the closest retelling of the three, but done in such a unique way that feels both magical and real at the same time!
3. ROMEO AND JULIET
--From ROMEO AND JULIET by William Shakespeare
How can a list be complete without arguably the most famous tragic couple in literature? Who doesn't know the tale of Romeo and Juliet, a school staple that everyone has read at some point in their lives?
- I'm currently reading RONIT AND JAMIL by Pamela L. Laskin, and it's so brand-new that it doesn't officially hit bookstores until next week! What's really cool about this retelling is that 1) It's in verse, so it's poetry instead of prose and reads much faster, and 2) It takes place amongst feuding families in the war-torn countries of Israel and Palestine. This is full of the current political situation in both countries, complete with the fence/wall Israel built a couple of years ago that has been a huge source of contention between the two countries. This is a retelling like you've never seen before!
- Want another completely different retelling of the Bard's most famous star-crossed lovers? WHEN YOU WERE MINE by Rebecca Serle is a modern-day interpretation from the POV of Juliet's cousin, Rosaline. You know, the girl Romeo was obsessed with and pining over until he laid eyes on Juliet and forgot all about his former paramour? And Juliet is a little bit crazy. And Rosaline is a little bit devastated over losing her boyfriend to her cousin. Talk about a different view of this tale!
- THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore got a lot of great attention when it debuted. Full of magical realism in a style reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez, this novel tells the tale of feuding rivals the Palomas and the Corbeaus. Both families come from long lines of performers, and every year, they fight for the choicest land to set up their shows. When Lace Paloma enters the family business as a performing mermaid and falls for Cluck, a Crow who's been cast aside, she has to decide if love is worth the price of her family's wrath, and if the rivaly can ever be healed...
4. BEAUTY AND BEAST
--From BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales, even though it's not strictly a retold tale and is, in fact, an original story--which a lot of people don't know. A lot of people also don't know that the original version is pretty different from the beloved Disney animated film! I honestly love this story in all of its forms, and will never get sick of these retellings!
- My absolutely favorite retelling is HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier. It was my first novel by Marillier, even though I'd heard her novel DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST was excellent. I've since gone on to read many of her novels, and this is still my favorite--perhaps because of the B&B theme? What I love most about this retelling is that it's so REALISTIC. There is no beast, but a grown man who, as a child, had a severe palsy that left him without the use of part of his body and gave him a lopsided face. This fees more realistic, like something that could actually happen in our world. Throw in a Celtic setting and I'm so in love with this novel!
- Earlier, I mentioned A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas, and my list would be incomplete if I didn't mention it again here. When I finished reading this book the first time, I was left reeling and didn't want to say goodbye. I literally hugged the book to my chest. I needed that contact a little longer. I rarely ever do anything like that. It physically felt like I would lose something if I let go. I love how our "Beauty" has to be strong and take care of her own family to the point where she finds herself cursed and living amongst the fae. Again, there is no "Beast," per say, and the story is very original, but the way the traditional tale plays into this novel is brilliant and it still feels very Beauty and the Beast. I also love that the novel has elements from two other tales I love, North of the Sun, East of the Moon, and The Ballad of Tam Lin. Talk about a home run!
- To continue the theme of really unique renditions of B&B, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss OF BEAST AND BEAUTY by Stacey Jay. This retelling is much more sci-fi than any other I've read. Plus, the roles are reversed, with a female Beast and a male Beauty. And our "Beast" is blind! There are also shades of Romeo and Juliet in this one, and it's just a different, interesting concept!
5. JANE AND EDWARD
--From JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë
People either love or hate the romance between this couple in JANE EYRE. But really, who doesn't love a brooding bad-boy, especially today? Edward may be gruff and ragged around the edges, but he's been through a LOT and just can't bring himself to be as outgoing in life. For its time, the romance between this couple was very non-traditional, and the gothic vibe to the story continues to entrance readers today!
- One of my all-time, Top Five Favorite novels is THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield. While it's not precisely a retelling of JANE EYRE, it was heavily influenced by the novel and has the same gothic atmosphere and some common elements. Plus, the prose is just so, so beautiful. And as a fellow writer myself, falling into the story of a famous author trying to make amends with her past is so interesting to me! The writing style is glorious, and the prose captured me from the very first page. This is just such a gorgeous, gorgeous book!
- Want a modern-day reinterpretation of JANE EYRE? How about JANE by April Lindner? This is a world with rockstars and magazine heartthrobs, and while it seems glitzy on the surface, it still has the twisty, dark secrets that have made the tale of JANE EYRE so famous. (Although the age gap is a litttttle creepy and doesn't work quite as well in today's society, but this can be overlooked if you want to see how the story would work in today's world!)
- JANE STEELE by Lyndsay Faye is another book that, while not based on JANE EYRE, is heavily inspired by it. In fact, in this case, Jane Steele is obsessed with the plight of Jane Eyre. If the book's tagline, "Reader, I murdered him" doesn't make you sit up and take notice of this one, surely its opening line, "Of all my many murders, committed for love and for better reasons, the first was the most important." If you want some blood and gore mashed up into your novel a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Kill Bill or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, something full of death and mayhem, then you're in for one wild ride with this gritty novel!
I've previously blogged about SOLSTICE, HEART'S BLOOD, OF BEAST AND BEAUTY, A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and A COURT OF MIST AND FURY, if you'd like to see more in-depth reviews of any of these titles.