Monday, 28 July 2014

Updating The Classics

When I was studying A Level English Literature, Emma was one of our set texts. Our lecturer raved about Jane Austen’s prose, but for the life of me I didn’t get it.  Although I was an avid reader, I remember spending half term forcing myself to read a set number of chapters each day, just so I could get to the end of it.

Of course, with the benefit of age and experience, I can now agree with my lecturer regarding the quality of her writing.

Of all her novels, Sense and Sensibility is my favourite and a few years ago I toyed with the idea of updating the plot into a modern setting.

So much has been written about Pride and Prejudice that I thought the lesser-known Sense & Sensibility might be suitable gap in the market.  I didn’t get any further than my initial musings though and then I heard that The Austen Project had commissioned well-known writers to pen their own modern versions 

Joanna Trollope was asked to re-write Sense and Sensibility and whilst I was a little miffed that my own version would be null and void – if I’d ever got round to writing it that is – I couldn’t think of a better person to write it.

I received a copy for Christmas and decided to re-read the original before I began to read the new version.

And now I’ve read them both and I have to say, frankly, I was disappointed.

Joanna Trollope’s version is easy to read and is well-written, and at first I was fascinated by how she had transformed the plot of old into a modern day setting.  But as the story progressed I began to get rather frustrated with the characters themselves.

In Jane Austen’s day, unless they had an independent fortune, women really only had one option and that was to marry well.  If they could both marry well and be in love then that was the ideal outcome, but being in love definitely wasn’t a pre-requisite to marriage for many. And really, the men weren’t much better off. If they too didn’t have their own fortune or living, they would have to marry for money.  And then if they did have money they had to choose someone who would be fitting for their status.

But I don’t feel that a plotline based on this premise can be believably translated into the modern day.  In Joanna Trollope’s version, I found myself wanting to shout at the young single women to go out and get a job, and for the men whose relatives manipulated them by the threat of disinheritance, I wanted to shout for them to grow a backbone and follow their hearts.

So for me, unfortunately, this version of Sense and Sensibility didn’t really work.  I’m glad Joanna Trollope did it though because I think she did a much better job than I could ever have done

Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey was published at the end of March and Curtis Sittenfield will be rewriting Pride and Prejudice, due out this autumn.

Despite my disappointment with the first book in the series, I would still be interested to read the rest, particularly Val McDermid’s version. Part of me still wonders though if you can’t actually better the originals. 

Has anyone else read these two, if so I’d be interested to hear what you think. 

Old or new?  What works best for you?

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Let the Holidays Commence

Not mine I might add, but the children’s.  It’s a short summer break this year – only 5½ weeks, ha ha!

And when most people might be looking forward to lazier days without the school run, my quandary is how to work and to keep the boys entertained for so long.

As a family we don’t take holidays during the summer as my husband is usually snowed under with work.  He is currently working 7 days a week and next week will be working about 15 hours a day, so he can hardly be expected to take his share of the child care, and there’s certainly no long lazy days on the beach to look forward to.

Thankfully as my boys love football, they go to a football school from Monday – Thursday for 4 weeks of the holiday, and I can cover most of my work while they are there and do the rest from home, so most of the time is covered.  I’ve decided that Fridays will be a time when the three of us will have a day out so at least we’ll get away from four walls.  I want us to have some fun time together as well as going on some visits which will be of educational interest for them.  (I haven’t actually mentioned the educational to them yet – ha ha!)

We are lucky enough to live a stone’s throw from what I consider to be one of the best zoo’s in the country.  We’ve had membership there since the boys have been little but recently we haven’t been going very often, so yesterday we decided to make the most of our membership.

My youngest has decided that he wants to see every animal in the zoo this summer, so we may have to do a few visits.  Yesterday it was baking so we did the bottom section of zoo, my youngest marking them off on the list as we went (do you think he has developed my penchant for lists?) and then had lunch in the cafĂ©.  The good thing is that we also get discount on food and drinks with our membership so it’s win-win.

As ever I had to take photos of my favourite animals. 



We called it a day mid-afternoon – we were just too hot and weary to walk any further, but we all agreed that a good day was had by all.

Today was a day of housework and gardening and tomorrow I’ve said I’m going to get the bikes out and make sure that they are all in working order.  It’s something I may live to regret.

Oh and here is one of the animals at home, having a considerably easier day then we had.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Catch Up

I can't believe that its already the middle of July and I haven't managed to post a single blog this month.

I just don't know where the time goes these days and its not because I've been writing. Working, yes, but not writing.

I am, though, trying to slot in the odd few minutes of editing whenever I get a chance. I'm currently working my way through a novel I sent to the RNA New Writers Scheme two years ago, but its a long, slow process.

Its the novel that I have done the most work on and its been in the pipeline for more years than I care to think about, but even so it has still  needed a lot of editing this time around.  My writing group have been looking at it too and giving me some valuable feedback (as ever) so I'm pleased about that.  So far they are enjoying it and say that they are disappointed that they can't read on when they get to the end of each section.  (Can't be all bad then).  I'm hoping to send them the final installment soon, so I'm keen to hear what they think of the finished story.  

Then its back to the drawing board and reworking the first three chapters so I can knock it into shape to send out to agents.  I'm looking forward to having it in a format that I feel happy enough to send out, but no doubt will have to steel myself to receive the inevitable rejections.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say, and at least it will feel like I've achieved something, even if it does come bouncing right back to me.

Hope you are all being a little bit more productive than I am this summer.