Classics: you either love them or you hate them. Some of you may be wondering what the point of reading or even rereading classic novels is (other than mandatory novel studies in high school). For many people, the classics are outdated and antiquated and don’t really resonate with our modern lives. But I beg to disagree.
Classics are classics for a reason: they ring with universal truths that are still pertinent today. Once you get past the old, stuffy, and sometimes difficult language, I believe there are things that we can still learn from them today. And modern retellings are one way to do exactly that.
Modern retellings strip away the old and difficult language and leave us with the bare bones of the story, as the author fills in the setting and language with more updated versions, letting us truly discover and appreciate the themes of the original.
Here are some of my favourite modern retellings of classics:
Meg & Jo
Meg and Jo is one of the most recent ones I read and it’s a retelling of Little Women. Given the recent movie adaptation of this classic American novel, Little Women has become quite popular again in recent years.
What I loved about this retelling is how deeply Kantra goes into the lives of each character. She does this by focusing on two sisters per story; this one is about the elder two, Meg and Jo March. And then the sequel is about Beth and Meg.
Kantra does an amazing job keeping the flavour of closeness and love that the March women encompass in the original, from each of their sisters to their mother. Their lives are coloured with difficulties, some of them more modern than others, but all portraying a compelling story of the famous little women.
In Cinder, Meyer takes on the classic fairytale of Cinderella. But she turns it completely on its head. Cinder is no ordinary girl: she’s a gifted mechanic and a cyborg living in a futuristic Earth. And she’s also a lost princess who serves and suffers at the hands of her evil stepsister and stepmother. If you like Sailor Moon, there are also flavours of that.
There are probably hundreds of Cinderella retellings, but this one is unique as Meyer mixes a fairytale with teen science fiction and dystopia and turns it into something beautiful and fascinating. And don’t worry, there is still a lost shoe.
Ayesha at Last
If you’re looking for a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a South-Asian twist, this is the book for you!
Ayesha is every bit the feisty and independent woman that Elizabeth Bennet was, and she lives with a bustling and big Muslim family who have a lot of opinions on what she should and shouldn’t do, and who she should and shouldn’t marry.
But when she comes across opinionated Khalid, a Muslim man who dresses like he’s from the seventh century, she feels attraction. But he can’t be the one for her, she decides as she pushes him toward her younger and popular cousin, Hafsa, who is looking to get married. But does Khalid feel the same way?
Ayesha at Last is a funny and socially relevant retelling of the beloved Austen novel. It is filled with a diverse cast of characters and is set in Toronto, which makes it even more believable.
Shakespeare’s tale of Verona’s star-crossed lovers is one of the most famous and beloved in the English language, and Fortier brings Romeo and Juliet to the present day.
Julie is heartbroken when her favourite aunt dies; she is even more upset when she discovers that her aunt left everything to her twin sister, and nothing but an old key for her.
So begins Julie’s journey to Italy with the old key, as she unearths the true tale of Romeo and Giulietta, the real lovers behind the story. In Italy, she finds the blood feud between the two families is still alive and well, as she struggles to escape with the truth—and her life.
Juliet is told in alternating storylines; we get Julie’s modern adventure, and then also Giulietta’s origin story, as Fortier weaves them together to create something magical.
These are some of my favourite modern retellings of classic English stories. What are yours?