‘Fail’ for retelling of clas­sic story

Kapi-Mana News - - REVIEWS -

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.

Ruth Far­rell

– 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.

Matthew Dal­las

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