Review: Whatever Love Is? by Rosie Rushton

12405172Whatever Love Is? by Rosie Rushton
Genre: Classic Retelling
Published by: Piccadilly
Pages: 210
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon
As part of my Mansfield Must-Haves, I picked up the 21st Century retelling from my local library. Reading retellings is a great way to dive into the world of classics, and gaining a basic understanding, as much as a literary web series is!

Continue reading “Review: Whatever Love Is? by Rosie Rushton”

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Web Series: Evolving the Classics

Recently, Bee and I have been diving into some new web series. We were absolutely addicted to ‘Nothing Much To Do’, an adaptation of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, our favourite Shakespeare play, that we were excited to test the waters for new literary obsessions.

What was so beautiful about NMTD was that we could understand all of the references and nods to the original text because we’d read it before. It was such an enriching experience, and great to see all characters showcased, even Dogberry and the Watch and Balthazar, over a multitude of YouTube channels. It seemed like nothing was cut from the adaptation, and you got to experience everyone’s point of view.

I was worried to start new series because I thought I wouldn’t enjoy them as much if I wasn’t already familiar with the primary text. But it turns out, literary web series are a great way to inspire and encourage you to read the original material!

My favourite, most recent, discovery is ‘From Mansfield With Love’, an adaptation of ‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen. This seemed like one of her most underappreciated novels, because I’ve only really heard of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Emma’ most frequently. I was excited to discover a love, which could be more original than loving ‘The Lizzie Bennett Diaries’, that as soon as I’d caught up on the current, beautiful 45 episodes, I dived straight into the novel.

A novel, which could have been a very slow read, just zipped by with immense amusement. I’ve decided to read along with the web series, because I want the events to be a surprise, but I was surprised that I took so well to ‘Mansfield Park’. FMWL just transformed the novel, keeping me interested and entertained as I anticipated the next section of the book based on the episodes. It was excellently translated on screen, making me appreciate the web series even more.

I guess my point is, if you love modern adaptations of literary classics as much as I do, you’ll love them even more if you look at the source material. One can be enjoyed without the other, but together, they create something truly magical, and much more approachable for a 21st Century audience.

The Reading Hierarchy

Having accepted our places at university, Bee and I were discussing the curriculum of university English Literature courses. Shakespeare is a staple of the syllabus, appearing in every course without fail, turning up like a bad penny. One of the Bronte sisters is also there, ready to throw some 18th-19th Century context your way.

But you’ll struggle to find books like ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ appearing at university level. Now it’s becoming more common for ‘Lord of the Rings’ to make it to the set list, with ‘Harry Potter’ almost getting there, skirting on the edge of the fantasy genre, struggling to gain prestige because he’s labelled as a ‘children’s book’.

Why is it that classics like ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Great Expectations’ are always given precedence over books like ‘The Raven Boys’ and ‘Under the Never Sky’?

When I told my English teacher that I primarily read ‘Young Adult’ fiction, she said I needed to ‘grow out’ of that stage before university, and start reading things like ‘The Shock of the Fall’ or ‘We’re Completely Beside Ourselves’ if I was interested in contemporary fiction, instead of ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’. I should be moving on to ‘adult books’.

But if I told her I’d recently read ‘You’re the One that I Want’ by Giovanna Fletcher, that would probably be looked down upon too, because of its placement within the ‘Women’s Fiction’ genre, or ‘Chick Lit’.

It seems unfair that academics think more of you if you’re read the collected works of Charles Dickens over that of Rick Riordan, and there seems to be this invisible hierarchy of reading, with classics at the top of the pyramid and YA at the bottom.

YA is the one of the largest growing genres of literature. Publishers can’t publish YA books fast enough. There seems to have been a boom of teenagers that want to read something that’s more suited to their age group, like me! When I was nine, I used to worry what I would read when I grew out of Jacqueline Wilson books. Now there’s a plethora of choice and I have trouble deciding what to read next!

I think that, and be warned of the oncoming opinion, that we should all just be happy that people are reading. Just because the book was published a month ago by someone straight out of college doesn’t make it any less worth reading than if it was publish over one hundred years ago by someone in their late forties.

Let books be books, instead of instruments with which the reader’s are judged.

Reading Classics: Beginner’s Guide

Over the last couple of months, Bee and I have really been trying to widen our reading pattern, and experience some of the great literature out there that wasn’t published in this century. We’ve had to do some reading for school, of course, but we’ve also been doing a lot of reading for our book club and just in general. I am in no way an expert on these classics, but I thought I’d give a few tips if you’re interested in trying out something new (even though the books are old!)

1. Read small books. This may seem like a cop out, but it is the perfect way to widen your reading without committing yourself to 800 pages of Charles Dickens. You really feel enriched afterwards, even if it’s only taken you three hours to read! Try: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (who also wrote Treasure Island?!) or Animal Farm by George Orwell.

2. Read books that you know something about. Everyone is familiar with certain classic tales, even if it is the watered-down version presented in the media. Try: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or Dracula by Bram Stoker.

3. Read the books that have lots of adaptations. This can really help to bring a story to life with costumes, setting and lively dialogue! If you’re finding the content of the novel hard, as well, then an adaptation can really help to firm up your understanding of the text. Try: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

4. Don’t limit yourself to only the genre of novels. In order to really read widely, why not trying reading plays or poetry instead? This can be much quicker than reading a novel, but equally as enjoyable. Try: Any Shakespeare play (although I’d recommend the comedies!) or the poetry of the Romantic era, like John Keats. 

5. Finally, read classics with others. There’s nothing better to talk about than books, and to actually discuss the classic that you’ve chosen to read will further your understanding of the text to an even greater extent. Listening to what others think of the novel could possibly influence your opinion of it. Share recommendations and enthusiasm!

I hope this inspired you to go and try out classics, remember, they’re not as scary as they look!