‘Fail’ for retelling of classic story
When retelling any story – let alone a muchloved classic – the author has to tread carefully between being faithful to the characters and taking creative licence to give an old story new life.
Unfortunately, in this retelling, the author fails. The events of the original book are retold slavishly, yet Livesey’s characters are shallow imitations of the vibrant people who live in the pages of
The truly odd parts – such as Mr Rochester’s secret – have been changed. I can understand the author doing this – some parts of
are nearly unbelievable. But to change a major part of the book, you need to change it to something equally compelling – and Livesey doesn’t.
Gemma, the main character, annoyed me. She didn’t hold a candle to Jane Eyre. While her time at school was interesting – and a rare attempt from the author to deviate from Bronte’s original storyline – after the school section, the story just went downhill.
Gemma had no believable motivation for many of her actions as an adult, and her real low point came when she decided to steal money from her employers, an elderly couple who had taken her in, fed her and trusted her. The worst thing is that Gemma’s never confronted for her actions: once she takes the money, she never thinks about it again. After all, she got what she wanted.
If I had read this simply as a chick lit book, despite its faults, I might have thought it was OK. It is OK. It’s not great, it’s not terrible.
But as a retelling of a great classic romance, it fails.
– Kyle Mewburn (Scholastic) The words of Kyle Mewburn and pictures of Ali Teo and John O’reilly were already a familiar part of storytime in our house, courtesy of the amusing
– but has made a much bigger impression.
It’s wonderful when kids’ books present a theme or message that reaches beyond the standard whimsy, yet doesn’t knock you over the head with it.
Melu is a stubborn mule who one day bucks the ceaseless routine of his herd and decides to gallop the other way around the mountain, down towards the lush meadows and glistening green sea.
He is told he will starve and die and there are many obstacles to overcome but Melu – with the help of two new friends – receives just reward for his pluck.
Children’s movies and books are always telling them to follow their dreams, but there are not enough tell them it’s OK to go against the flow, to ‘‘clop clip’’ instead of ‘‘clip clop’’ like the rest of the herd, if that’s what they want to do.
Mewburn’s point is particularly sage given how caught up we parents can get about wanting our kids to fit in.
To be honest, I’m not that crazy about the artwork. I prefer a more tactile approach to today’s computer software-assisted creations, but it is bold and bright and will please the little ones, and it takes little away from the magical story. Snap up the classy hardcover edition as it’s bound to become a bedtime favourite. A Maori version ( retold by Ngaere Roberts) is also available.