Classic vs Updated Novels

I’ve never been crafty or witty enough to pull off April Fool’s jokes.  So this will be just another Sunday Vs.  Sorry to disappoint!

The topic of the week is Classic Novels vs. their Updated counterparts.

Example:  Pride and Prejudice vs. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is a re-telling of sorts, with some zombies thrown in.  Another example would be The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, which is an updated version setting it in the 21st century.   Or Pride and Popularity giving the story a modern high school twist.

Think the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.  Or even the BBC show Sherlock, a modern take on Sherlock Holmes.  And contrary to the rest of this post, I cannot praise Sherlock enough!

I haven’t read many updated novels of classics.  Although I did read the graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  (Which was really entertaining, but perhaps part of it was because I deeply enjoy graphic novels.)

Generally, I try to stay away from updated novels because there’s a stigma that goes along with them.  I suppose some of them can be likened to fan fiction, even, which trust me, will be a whole other post!  And to be honest, I rather like reading the originals, both for the style of writing, as well as an intricate look at another time in history.

However, I’m not against the occasional retelling of a story.  But I find that most of the ones I’m drawn to are fairy tales.  (I grew up re-reading Just Ella and Ella Enchanted, interesting takes on Cinderella.)  There’s something about their old, magical feel that I love. And yet, for some reason, it’s difficult for me to get through modern spins on classics.  Perhaps I feel that modern takes lose their historical or magical appeal, so I only really enjoy re-imaginings during the period in which they take place.   Or maybe I’m just really picky.

So what are your thoughts about updating classic stories?  Have you read any good (or terrible) re-tellings of a story?  Or do you do you avoid them like a plague?


About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

6 Responses to Classic vs Updated Novels

  1. derekberry says:

    I guess I haven’t read any updated novels. But when they do it with movies, they usually get mixed results. At times terrible, but at other times pretty okay. I hope the update of “The Great Gatsby” will prove good.

  2. I didn’t much care for P&P but I confess I liked it better without the zombies. That update could have been good but I had some problems with it that made my enjoyment of the book plummet.

    I seem to prefer fairy tale retellings as opposed to those of classic novels.

  3. staticsan says:

    I usually prefer fairy tales to be reconstructed in stories. Terry Pratchett is good at that, and in a very different way, so it Sheri S Tepper.

    That said, I really liked Bride and Prejudice, which was a Bollywood-meets-the-West retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

  4. One of my friends is working on a modern Cindarella story set around a classy fashion magazine (think Vogue). Cindarella is an office girl, the wicked stepmother is the editor, her daughter, the ugly stepsister. Prince Charming is the son of the magazine owner and the fairy godmother is Cinders aunt. It seems to be working really well. I can’t wait for her to finish it.

    I’m all In Favour of modern uptakes, what I can’t stand is when they do say a film based on a classic and then change it all 😦

    Make it modern or leave it alone I say lol 😉


  5. When I read about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it looked like a great idea, but I couldn’t imagine it would sustain over a whole novel. I thought it would be better as something like Jane Austen’s Fight Club. Like some movies where it looks like the premise would make a great sketch on Saturday Night Live. But, of course, I could be wrong, since I never read it.

    (Also, for the Kindle, P&P is free, and P&P&Z is $5, so it had better be even better than the original. 🙂 )

    Oh, and I think they are fan fiction, but I’m okay with fan fiction. I saw this quote a while ago which I thought made a lot of sense: “Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of by the folk.” (Henry Jenkins, director of media studies at MIT)

    We’ve been talking about this question in relation to movies over at my blog (, since I was somewhat alarmed to discover that the upcoming movie of Dark Shadows is going to be a comedy. I feel the same way about a DS comedy as a lot of Austen fans probably feel about the zombies.

  6. rtd14 says:

    I’m catching up on my reading, as you can see with my belated comment. Anyways, I think a version of Cinderella is retold in every and any culture. Women love their shoes, and do not wish to be parted from them. That is the moral I took away.

    Trying to be funny aside, I think the style of writing changes so much from decade to decade; not to mention century to century. Everything changes. Take Pride and Prejudice for example. It is told in a way the narrator travels from mind to mind. Now the narrator is a living entity and a character of the book. The narrartor cannot confuse the reader by going from character mind to character mind in one scene, or at least we writers are advised not to in terms of contemporary writing. (I personally think if you’re a great writer, break the rules.) But, with the way style changes, it is hard to recapture the essence of what made a classic great. That is not to say it cannot be done.

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