If a story is enjoyable once, why not read it again? Many works of classic literature have reappeared as revised versions in which an author rewrites or pays tribute to a well-known book. Here are a few titles in which you can read an old classic in a new way.

Jane Steele

by Lyndsay Faye

Orphaned Jane Steele loves the book “Jane Eyre,” and sees some similarities between herself and the main character of Charlotte Bronte’s novel. “More of my homicides anon—the astute among you will desire to know why a dyed-in-the-wool villainess takes up pen and foolscap in the first place. I have been reading over and over again the most riveting book titled Jane Eyre, and the work inspires me to imitative acts.” After her mother dies, Steele suffers under the hand of a cruel schoolmaster and faces other abusive men before finding a place where she belongs. “You cannot know what it means, reader, to have thought yourself despised for your unworthiness for a period of years—to have supposed your very nature poison, and your friend right to have thus abandoned you—and to learn thereafter that you were loved not too little but too well.”

Emma: A Modern Retelling

by Alexander McCall Smith

Jane Austen is one of the most popular authors retold in books and film. “Emma was a controller... if you were brought up to believe that there was a very clear right way and wrong way of doing things, then you might well try to make other people do things your way rather than theirs.” In this version of “Emma,” Emma’s widowed father, Mr. Woodhouse, continually obsesses about infection and germs. When Emma returns home after college ready to start her own business, she convinces her father to throw a dinner party, one of many attempts to arrange the lives of family and friends. “It had been an important summer for Emma, as it had been the summer during which moral insight came to her—something that may happen to all of us, if it happens at all, at very different stages of our lives. This had happened because she had been able to make that sudden imaginative leap that lies at the heart of our moral lives: the ability to see, even for a brief moment, the world as it is seen by the other person.”

The Book of You

by Claire Kendal

In this debut novel, Kendal uses the eighteenth century “Clarissa” by Samuel Richardson as a basis for her story. “I know you must have been watching me since I left my house. I can’t stop myself from asking you what you’re doing here, though I know your answer won’t be the true one.” Stalked by Rafe, Clarissa documents the incidents because the police can’t help without evidence. Jury duty during a rape trial provides a temporary refuge while she collects proof of Rafe’s unwanted attention in the form of calls, gifts, letters, and photographs. “That could be me, Clarissa thought, understanding the woman’s terror and degradation when faced with talking in public about whatever had happened to her. Clarissa, too, could become a person who filled someone like Annie with revulsion.”

The Innocents

by Francesca Segal

Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” echoes in this novel about Jewish Londoner Adam Newman, who becomes enchanted by his fiancée Rachel’s cousin Ellie. “Absolutely everything about her was different from her younger cousin. Ellie seemed restless and too worldly. Rachel liked what she knew and was content for everything to remain precisely as it was, though it would be unfair to say she was ignorant.” Can Adam choose between the woman entwined in his community and the new, unexpected woman so different from the familiar? “She had lost the innocence that had been so long preserved. He wondered if she knew that it had gone...Life had taught her suffering. Maybe he himself had taught her suffering—he could not bring himself to pursue that line of thought. But with the sacrifice of her innocence, it was undeniable, she had bought her strength.”

The titles above, as well as the original novels that inspired them, are available at the Rutland Free Library. Read the old, read the new, read them all.

Happy reading!

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