Top 5 Saturday: Retellings That Have Stuck With Me

Top 5 Saturday Retellings

The Top 5 Saturday weekly meme was created by Amanda at Devouring Books.

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic—these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people (I probably won’t do this bit, play along if you want)

The Upcoming Schedule Is:

5/9/20 — Books with a Number in the Title
5/16/20 — Books by Debut Authors
5/23/20 — Books about Plants/Flowers (Can be on cover, in title or plot)
5/30/20 — Books from a Male POV


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

A Retelling of: Hamlet by some obscure playwright

The reason I didn’t call this list “My Favorite Retellings” or something like that is this novel. I didn’t really enjoy much of this one. But man, it was gorgeously written. Before I started this blogged, I wrote a little about it on Goodreads: “Meticulously crafted, wonderfully and intricately written, fantastic characters, a world you’d love to live in, imaginative, creative, a concept so great, so well executed…aaaaaand I had to force myself to read it. I took 3 breaks from this novel, and had to drag myself back to it each time. I feel like I owe this book 5 stars because it deserves them, but I really want to give it 1.75 or so. There is no reason at all that I shouldn’t like it—people should love this work, actually. But I just didn’t.” Still, nine years later, this is the first novel that lept to mind when I started this list and I have vivid memories of a lot of the book. Can’t beat that.


Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

A Retelling of: Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

An Avatar-esque story, that’s nowhere near as self-important and a whole lot more entertaining than the Cameron movie. Jack Holloway is a prospector on the planet Zarathustra who discovers a potentially sentient and language using species (that coincendentally are about the cutest things ever). Holloway has to figure out a way to keep the species from being wiped out by an uncaring corporation. This might actually be my favorite Scalzi novel.


Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A Retelling of: Cinderella

A YA SF re-imagining of the Cinderella story featuring a young woman with a cybernetic leg who attracts the attention of a Prince trying to help his people survive a plauge. It launches an epic series (also featuing re-tellings I could have filled this list with). I don’t know that the entire Lunar Chronicles series really delivered on the promise of this book, but I had a lot of fun with it. If you’re going to do a re-imagining, this is the way to do it.

* Jim C. Hines’ Princesses series also comes to mind at this point…maybe I should have included one of them…


Re Jane by Patricia Park

A Retelling of: Jayne Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Brontë’s novel is one of my All-Time Desert Island Top 5 novels, and I’m a sucker for a retelling of it. This one is set in NYC in the late 1990’s. Jane Re, is a half-Korean, half-American orphan who is hired to be the au pair for a Chinese adoptee. It’s Jane Eyre and more. As I said when I posted about it, it’s a clever re-imagining, and/or a satisfying read.


The Graveyard Book

A Retelling of: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I remember reading this to my kids years ago, and being very affected by it myself. It’s haunting, playful, creepy and heartwarming. A brilliant way to retell the story of an lone man-child in a very foreign atmosphere by beings not fit to raise one—and their efforts to help him fit in his native society.

Reposting Just ‘Cuz — Re Jane by Patricia Park

So, I couldn’t get anything written tonight — but wanted to get something up, so for no real reason, here’s a post from 5 years ago (or so)

Re JaneRe Jane

by Patricia Park
Hardcover, 338 pg.
Pamela Dorman Books, 2015

Read: July 6 – 8, 2015

There are two ways to look at this book — as a retelling of Jane Eyre and as a novel on its own terms. It’s clearly indebted to Jane Eyre — frequently, the allusions are subtle; sometimes, she might as well be jumping up and down waving a flag. Still, Park’s her own writer — this is its own story, with its own characters — and a heroine who’s not just Brontë’s best-known character thinly disguised.

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, first of all — shame on you. Secondly, yes, you can read this and appreciate it — you’ll just miss some of Park’s cleverness. Instead, what you’ll get is a straight-forward story about the trials and travails (and travels) of a young Korean-American woman.

Jane Re’s a half-Korean college graduate who becomes a nanny for the daughter of a couple of silly (white) New Yorkers — she’s a stereotypical college professor in Women’s Studies, he’s a henpecked high-school English teacher. Their daughter was adopted from China, and is now old enough that she doesn’t need a nanny — which makes the whole thing a greater challenge. Still, it’s better than the alternative — returning to live with her uncle and aunt, who were forced to take her in after the death of her mother in Korea (and her family there being unwilling to keep her).

Then through a series of events you can read about yourself, she finds herself living for a bit in South Korea. This is as fascinating as you’d think it’d be. It’s not just about a young South Korean woman, it’s about a young half-South Korean woman, raised in the States (by people who left Korea decades before), trying to acclimate to Korea. A stranger in the U.S. to many because of culture and appearance, finds herself a greater stranger there for the same reasons.

Which leads to . . . spoiler stuff. Which is even more interesting. Along the way there’s a whole mess of family issues, stranger-in-a-strange-land issues, self-acceptance issues, romance issues, and other things I can’t pair with the word “issues.” Jane goes through a lot, I’ve got to say — maybe a wider-range of challenges than Eyre. I frequently found myself wanting a bit more spunk, a bit more chutzpah from Jane throughout. But, like her namesake, when she needed it, she found it within — and it was great to see.

Park makes a pivotal choice in her selection of chronological setting — and one that worried me. It’d have been so easy to go wrong with this, and I’m used to seeing it go badly — but Park pulls it off, and actually makes it work for her.

In the end, I liked Jane. I rooted for her. I liked (some of) her family and friends. I was invested in the story. It’s not going to go down as good as, or as important as, its inspiration — but it’s a well-written, warm, look at a woman learning how to take charge of her life.

—–

4 Stars

Re Jane by Patricia Park

This is frustrating…I’ve been working on this post for a couple of weeks now, and have spent a lot of time re-writing, re-writing and throwing out material. I finally decided what to keep and how to organize it, I think. I’m tempted to just put this cover image next to a big .gif of a thumbs up and call it a day.

—-

Re JaneRe Jane

by Patricia Park
Hardcover, 338 pg.
Pamela Dorman Books, 2015

Read: July 6 – 8, 2015

There are two ways to look at this book — as a retelling of Jane Eyre and as a novel on its own terms. It’s clearly indebted to Jane Eyre — frequently, the allusions are subtle; sometimes, she might as well be jumping up and down waving a flag. Still, Park’s her own writer — this is its own story, with its own characters — and a heroine who’s not just Brontë’s best-known character thinly disguised.

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, first of all — shame on you. Secondly, yes, you can read this and appreciate it — you’ll just miss some of Park’s cleverness. Instead, what you’ll get is a straight-forward story about the trials and travails (and travels) of a young Korean-American woman.

Jane Re’s a half-Korean college graduate who becomes a nanny for the daughter of a couple of silly (white) New Yorkers — she’s a stereotypical college professor in Women’s Studies, he’s a henpecked high-school English teacher. Their daughter was adopted from China, and is now old enough that she doesn’t need a nanny — which makes the whole thing a greater challenge. Still, it’s better than the alternative — returning to live with her uncle and aunt, who were forced to take her in after the death of her mother in Korea (and her family there being unwilling to keep her).

Then through a series of events you can read about yourself, she finds herself living for a bit in South Korea. This is as fascinating as you’d think it’d be. It’s not just about a young South Korean woman, it’s about a young half-South Korean woman, raised in the States (by people who left Korea decades before), trying to acclimate to Korea. A stranger in the U.S. to many because of culture and appearance, finds herself a greater stranger there for the same reasons.

Which leads to . . . spoiler stuff. Which is even more interesting. Along the way there’s a whole mess of family issues, stranger-in-a-strange-land issues, self-acceptance issues, romance issues, and other things I can’t pair with the word “issues.” Jane goes through a lot, I’ve got to say — maybe a wider-range of challenges than Eyre. I frequently found myself wanting a bit more spunk, a bit more chutzpah from Jane throughout. But, like her namesake, when she needed it, she found it within — and it was great to see.

Park makes a pivotal choice in her selection of chronological setting — and one that worried me. It’d have been so easy to go wrong with this, and I’m used to seeing it go badly — but Park pulls it off, and actually makes it work for her.

In the end, I liked Jane. I rooted for her. I liked (some of) her family and friends. I was invested in the story. It’s not going to go down as good as, or as important as, its inspiration — but it’s a well-written, warm, look at a woman learning how to take charge of her life.

—–

4 Stars