12 February 2016

Reading on Topic: 7 Novels Rooted in the Classics

Reading on Topic: 7 new novels with classic rootsI'm endlessly attracted to books that take a new look at an old story, whether a fairy-tale retelling or a reworking of a favorite classic.

Today's Reading on Topic features seven books on my reading list that have literary roots. All but one is or soon will be available in paperback, but note that two haven't been released yet. Each one focuses on a beloved female character (or person), from the adventurous Alice to the reclusive Emily. Have you read any of these?

A Classic Pair

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin tells the story of Alice Liddell, who was befriended by author Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. This novel, told in a flashback by an elderly Alice, introduces us to the girl and then the woman, who was forever haunted by both her fictional self in Wonderland and her relationship with Carroll. (Bantam paperback, 2010). Ana of California by Andi Teran is a retelling of Anne of Green Gables, transplanted to the West Coast and modern times. Fresh from the Los Angeles foster care system, worldly wise Ana is determined to make a go of it on a small  farm owned by a bother and sister. Although based on the classic, Teran's novel explores issues faced by today's teens and is peppered with contemporary cultural references. (Penguin paperback, 2015).

A Poet's Life

Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor shines the spotlight on the private life of the reclusive Emily Dickinson. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of a fictional household maid, Ada, and the poet herself. The pair form a friendship of sorts, and their opposite personalities offer an interesting contrast. (Penguin paperback, 2015). Amherst by William Nicholson takes a different path for uncovering the real Emily Dickinson. In this novel a modern-day screenwriter visits Amherst to research a project about Mabel Todd (one of Emily's champions) and her relationship with Austin, the poet's brother. We learn as much about the private Dickinson and her poems as we do about Mabel. (Simon & Schuster paperback, February 2016).

Jane Eyre Lives On

Re Jane by Patrica Park reimagines the Jane Eyre story as starring a Korean American woman struggling to start a career in finance in New York. Taking a nanny job to make ends meet, our modern Jane faces cultural and class issues, the changed atmosphere of the post-9/11 world, and an unlikely romance. (Penguin paperback, April 2016) Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier, is a collection of short stories by a fabulous mix of women authors, all inspired by the famous line from the classic tale. The stories are written from a variety of perspectives and touch on a range of themes found within the novel or in the contemporary author's imagination. (William Morrow paperback, March 2016) Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is a very different reworking of the beloved novel. In this take, our heroine will stop at nothing (including murder) to get what is hers. As Jane Steele works her con, posing as a governess, she's inspired by the book she's reading--Jane Eyre. Layers within layers set in Victorian England. (Putnam hardcover, March 2016)


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 2/12/16, 7:49 AM  

I recently was introduced to Melanie Benjamin with Swans of Fifth Avenue and she writes fiction about real life people so well! The Alice story sounds fascinating!

rhapsodyinbooks 2/12/16, 8:30 AM  

I love retellings too. I wasn't too taken with Ana of California, but I thought Jane Steele was terrific!

Katherine P 2/12/16, 8:57 AM  

I have Amherst and Alice I Have Been on my TBR but I'm not as familiar with the Jane Eyre books. I'm really curious about Reader I Married Him.

Daryl 2/12/16, 9:23 AM  

oh the last one sounds like i would love it ..

rhonda 2/12/16, 9:27 AM  

Jane Steele 5stars for me I also really liked Re:Jane.

bermudaonion 2/12/16, 9:52 AM  

That's not my favorite genre but I do love Melanie Benjamin's writing so I want to read Alice I Have Been.

grammajudyb 2/12/16, 10:25 AM  

I would probably start with Ana of California, but Alice I Have Been looks good too.

Kailana 2/13/16, 8:26 AM  

I really enjoy Melanie Benjamin and loved Alice I Have Been. I have never read a retelling of Anne of Green Gables before, so that could be interesting. Themes from her books appear in other books, of course, but not something marketed as a retelling.

Lisa 2/13/16, 4:24 PM  

I always think that I don't like books that spin off of other books but then I look at books like these and remember I do like them when they are done right and done well.

Jennifer Rummel 2/15/16, 8:03 AM  

Fun list! I really want to read Ana of California! I adored Anne of Green Gables

Sue Jackson 2/23/16, 9:18 AM  

What a wonderful list (and a creative grouping!). I just read Anne of Green Gables for the first time last summer and LOVED it - now I am dying to read Ana of California!

Thanks for the heads up on these intriguing books -


Book By Book

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