22 May 2011


I'm pretty in love with retellings and reinterpretations and suchlike in general. Posy Simmonds' brill graphic novels Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe (the latter a you-wouldn't-know-it riff on Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, with a less implausibly named heroine--Hardy's is Bathsheba Everdene. Yet that's only my SECOND favorite Hardy heroine name, top honors going of course to Eustacia Vye from The Return of the Native. (Are you reading Hardy yet? WHY NOT). Matt Haig's haunting Hamlet take, The Dead Fathers Club. Angela Carter's brutal fairytales in The Bloody Chamber (dig that righteous new Penguin Ink cover!). Oh, and my favorite that no one else has heard of, Alison Habens' down-the-rabbit-hole Alice homage, Dreamhouse.

That said, they can't all be winners: sometimes a retelling just makes me want to reread the original. Such was Victoria Patterson's This Vacant Paradise, setting Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth in 1990s Orange County. It wasn't actively bad, just lackluster, and I didn't care a fig for either the aging must-marry-for-money heroine or the Lawrence Selden analogue, an insufferable sociology professor. Gave up after 200 pages, which seems a fair shake, yes? (Though I just flipped to the end, and looks like she becomes a waitress instead of killing herself. Hmph, some tragedy.)

Better was the upended Persephone myth in Emily Whitman's Radiant Darkness, in which she runs away with Hades to escape a mother who still thinks she's a child, and then struggles with learning to be a queen and the disturbing tales she hears of a drought in the upper world. There's a nice epic-poem lyricism to the prose, and some real dynamism to the character. Also, the hardcover deserves kudos for having a photo of a girl who may NOT be Western European on the cover! (Even though she should be holding a pomegranate, right?) Looks like the paperback blue-washes her into looking much more white, though. BOO.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.