Friday, 31 May 2019

Rewriting the classics

Katy by Jacqueline Wilson and Becoming Jo by Sophie McKenzie

Classic children's books have long been a passion of mine, and to the disgust of several of my friends I list Little Women/Good Wives as two of my favourite books of all time.

I agree that after almost 150 years that these possibly aren't as up-to-date and modern as they were originally. Enter these two new retellings of What Katy Did and Little Women.

Katy sticks very firmly to the original novel for the first half, right up until Katy is injured I could have been reading the original and not a new version. However after this point I think that Jacqueline Wilson makes a good attempt at rewriting the story with modern medical advances and sensibilities. The original novel is very dated now and this was a clever way to make it more relevant but I question why an entirely new novel couldn't have been published (and why not by a disabled person when we come to that) rather than a reworking of book that has a terrible message for people, both disabled and non disabled.

Becoming Jo did a better job of updating a classic novel, although I did internally wince as it opened using exactly the same words as the original. Alcott's original story worked well as a frame work for a modern story and the girls' aspirations for the future definitely were more inclusive and modern.  I was surprised how much I liked this book, tampering with my favourites usually doesn't go well! I'm also looking forward to sharing this one with one of my most anti-Little Women friends to see what she makes of it.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Dipping in and out

My reading has become a little disorganised of late for three main reasons: a lot of my non fiction reservations arrived in one go at the library, I've been doing some more reading & reviewing for various projects and I've lost my fiction mojo.

This all means that I've not had a lot to say about my reading lately, however thanks to a trip to the theatre I've realised that I do have a book theme to talk about!

A little while ago we went to the Chichester Festival Theatre and saw Shadowlands, the play about C.S. Lewis' friendship with, and subsequent marriage to,  Joy Gresham and then her unexpected illness and death.  The play itself was magnificent, and the cast uniformly good. It was incredibly moving by the end, but shot through with humour meaning that it all felt very natural.

Between booking our tickets and seeing the play I had also read a new novel Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan thanks to Net Galley and Harper Collins.  This told the more or less the same story as Shadowlands but from Joy's perspective, it of course is also fiction inspired by fact and I very much enjoyed seeing the dual perspective.  For a full rounding out of the story I am now waiting for Lewis' own version of the story Surprised by Joy to arrive at the library.

In the meantime I am reading Inklings, the biography of the writing group that Lewis started, along with Tolkien, in the late 1930s.  I've always been a fan of C.S. Lewis' work and still own the Chronicles of Narnia book set that I was given for Christmas when I was 7 or 8, but I only read Tolkien as an adult, and to be honest his tales never captivated me in the same way.

However reading Inklings I think that I would have preferred to be in Tolkien's company more than Lewis - like me they greatly enjoyed being out in the countryside walking. Lewis was a serious walker - far more about the distance covered and the conversations had while walking whereas Tolkien much preferred a walk with plenty of time to look at nature and the views rather than covering the miles!
It is all a moot point however as women were not included in either the meetings of the Inklings or on the walks!

I definitely recommend Shadowlands and if you like novels imagining real people then Becoming Mrs Lewis is a good read.