Bookish Discussions

Classic Retellings: Do You Read Them?

And if so, how do you choose?


It seems like there are many books lately that I really want to read but then walk away from in the retellings category. Classics and Fairy Tales are showing up on shelves with new twists and clever spins. I’ve put many on my TBR and then never end up picking them up.

You see, I used to read Pride & Prejudice retellings, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels, variations, adaptations, fan-fiction…the list goes on.( Here’s a great definition list from blogger Laurel from Austenprose.) Not a ridiculous amount, but enough let downs to steer clear of them for many, many years. This was before I started a Goodreads blog account, when I had one for myself personally. I even wrote for a collaboration blog called Austen Sequels, which didn’t last and I have no idea where the originator of the blog went.

I recently put Eligible on hold at the library and added it to my April TBR list which started a downward spiral into all books that are retellings. It’s number four in The Austen Projects series and I haven’t read any. When I looked on Goodreads for other examples, I was quickly reminded of some the P&P-ish books I tried to read:

  • Pamela Aidan’s – not bad. Made it through 2
  • Linda Berdoll’s – GASP! Jane Austen is turning in her grave. Gave up after 1 book
  • Shannon Hale’s – Austenland – Meh
  • Abigail Reynolds’- Mr. Darcy, Vampyre? Absolutely not!

And as I was searching the exhaustive list these titles made me chuckle: Pride and Pyramids, Snark & Circumstance, Pride & Prep School, Steampunk Darcy. The chuckle then turned to snark and reminded me as to why I walked away from them long ago. I can’t even remember which ones I’ve read, they all started to blend together.

I’m not judging here. If you love them and enjoy them, then good on you. But every time I go to pick up any retelling, I put it back on the shelf. Did I burn myself out years ago? Too many let downs? Since I already know the story, will it be boring? I mean how many times can you change it up? I didn’t even read Bridget Jones’s Diary but really liked the movies. You can’t go wrong with Colin Firth.

And speaking of modern retellings, this list from Mental Floss a few years ago has many that I didn’t even know were based on a classic.

If a book is labeled a retelling/re-imagining/remake or based on another beloved story, does that bias the reader?

Do you read retellings?

Which ones should I go for that you’ve enjoyed?

9 thoughts on “Classic Retellings: Do You Read Them?

  1. I agree with you – many of them look intriguing but I really have not picked any up. I lump them in the same category as movie re-boots and normally all are let downs. I know this is unfair but oh well…

  2. Very pertinent post with all the hype right now about Jane Steele! And I too steer away from retellings…I’m not sure why. I never read tons of them and got burned out..I’ve really just never been much interested in them. Hearing a book is a retelling generally turns me off.

    That being said, I broke down and downloaded the Jane Steele sample to see what all the fuss was about, but couldn’t really get into the writing style.

  3. I am so with you. I rarely read them. Darcy’s Passions was one that I actually enjoyed, totally accidentally. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict was clever. I’ve tried reading a couple of the “modern retellings” and they always feel contrived. Nothing beats the original. I’ve been toying with the idea of reading Eligible and Jane Steele but I’ve held off. The love I have for the originals is long standing and since nothing will ever come close, why spend the time being disappointed?

  4. I think I’m like you and am hesitant about re-tellings! I may have read some but didn’t choose them for that reason- and I had no idea about several of those in the Mental Floss list. There was one I liked that was a modern Vanity Fair but I can’t remember the title.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever read a retelling. If a book is described as retelling I usually steer clear, if I liked the original why spoil the pleasure and if I didn’t like the original why bother with a retelling. Your post made my conviction even stronger 🙂

  6. I’m more inclined to read fairy tale retellings than classic retellings. I do have a copy of Jane Steele though! And I read Re Jane last year. Maybe I’m just a fan of Jane Eyre retellings…

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