Featured, Library Resources, Readers' Advisory

Classics Reimagined

By Maria Sanchez, Access Services & Circulation Support Staff

Have you ever enjoyed a classic so much you’ve continued to re-read it over the years? Perhaps this was because after finishing it, you wished you could stay in that world with those characters, to learn more about their story or what could’ve happened next. Below are some books based on some popular classics that you may enjoy.

If you loved Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, but always felt for the tragic figure that was Mr. Rochester’s first wife, Antoinette Cosway, aka Bertha, you can check out Wide Sargasso Sea where author Jean Rhys explores her upbringing and what led to her being in the state she’s introduced to us in the original classic. In this story, we learn Bertha is the name Mr. Rochester decided to call his wife and that many events, particularly his treatment of her drove her to madness. This book explores the racial reality of Creole society in the British colonies and the oppression of women.

Perhaps you learned in a history course about Joan of Arc, her triumph and tragic end, but wished to know more about what life could have been like for a girl during her time and what could have driven her to become the leader and later saint figure we learn about. In Joan, author Katherine Chen guides us through the speculative tale of circumstances and the possible personality that could have led young Joan to become the historical figure that lives in our imagination.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of the most loved classics. It has been reimagined and adapted in books and film— remember Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? We all felt shock and pity when *[SPOILER ALERT AHEAD]* Charlotte, the neighbor and best friend to Elizabeth Bennet, married Mr. Collins. It was a realistic scenario, but not what you wanted to read if you were reading for pure romance. If you were ever curious about what married life for Charlotte could’ve been like, then grab a copy of Charlotte by Helen Moffett. This novel picks up where the original story ends and gives us a fresh take on the character. We are able to see more about women’s lives during this era while following someone who had been a minor character in the original story.

H.M Brock’s illustration for the 1898 edition of Pride and Prejudice shows Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas

Maybe mythology is more up your alley. For Norse mythology, The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec explores the life of Angrboda, wife of our favorite trickster, Loki. Gornichec takes a maligned character and breathes in new life, not only changing our perception, but also expanding on the little that was written in the ancient texts. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is for all the Greek mythology fans. The novel follows Patroclus, friend and love interest to Achilles, from their childhood to the Trojan War. Miller spins a moving tale of love and loyalty that may leave you crying by the time you’ve finished reading.

Big fan of Shakespeare? Check out Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell and dive into the fictional story of Shakespeare’s family and the loss of his son that many believe inspired the naming of the tragedy, Hamlet. If you prefer Romeo and Juliet, Tom Lloyd’s Verona in Autumn rewrites the ending to one where the young couple live and escape Verona, to raise a family and return twenty years later. However, their deaths in the original play are what ended the feud between the two families, so what happens if they didn’t die?

If American classics are more your speed, James by Percival Everett will fit the bill. Everett rewrites Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the enslaved Jim’s (James) perspective. It’s a much needed refresh where Jim’s voice and agency are returned to him.

Regardless of your literary preference, the Fordham Libraries has you covered and is ready to guide you through the world of classics. If you have any further questions, please feel free to check out our research guide on classics, and as always, you can use our 24/7 chat service, Ask a Librarian.

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