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Monday, April 21, 2014

Yup, It's Shakespeare!

Posted by Alana T.

Wednesday (the 23rd) is Shakespeare's birthday and what better way to celebrate than read some of his works.  OK, maybe you think that's too much work, a bit difficult to wrap your mind around all those strange words.  Well, there are many literary critics, English majors, and writers who believe that just about everything published today is inspired by Shakespeare to some extent.  Why not try some modern novels where the writers consciously chose to retell classic tales or utilize themes in a fresh manner.  For more titles, jump to our previous Birthday Post.

Fool by Christopher Moore.  A man of infinite jest, Pocket has been Lear's cherished fool for years, from the time the king's grown daughters--selfish, scheming Goneril, sadistic (but erotic-fantasy-grade-hot) Regan, and sweet, loyal Cordelia--were mere girls. So naturally Pocket is at his brainless, elderly liege's side when Lear--at the insidious urging of Edmund, the bastard (in every way imaginable) son of the Earl of Gloucester--demands that his kids swear their undying love and devotion before a collection of assembled guests. Of course Goneril and Regan are only too happy to brownnose Dad. But Cordelia believes that her father's request is kind of . . . well . . . stupid, and her blunt honesty ends up costing her her rightful share of the kingdom and earns her a banishment to boot.  

The Weird Sisters by Elanor Brown.  The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they've been running from-one another, their small hometown, and themselves-might offer more than they ever expected.

Juliet by Anne Fortier.  Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.  This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

All Men of Genius by Lev Rosen. Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, "All Men of Genius "takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible. Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father's policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion by D.C. Palmer.  The Tempest" gets a high-tech steampunk makeover in Dexter Clarence Palmer's debut novel - it has zeppelins, cryogenics, and tin men.  For a more in depth review, jump over to this previous post.

Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland.  What if Shakespeare was a zombie? That's the jumping off point for this novel that explores the life (death?) of an undead Bard. Lots of pop culture references and allusions to Shakespeare's plays fill the book's pages, and if you like it, there's a sequel: Zombie Island.

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike.  Updike has always been well-known for his satiric fiction, and his contribution to the backstory of Hamlet, Gertrude & Claudius, is no different. Retold from various points of view and set in different time periods, Updike mines the literature Shakespeare himself used for new details and variations on the story. His various versions include kidnapping Claudiuses, wooing Claudiuses, good Gertrudes, evil Gertrudes, and everything in between, allowing his readers to wonder what went on before the action of the play unfolds.

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King.  From towering crags to misted moors and formidable fortresses, this novel transports readers to the heart of 11th century Scotland, painting a bold, vivid portrait of a woman much maligned by history.

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