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Posts Tagged ‘retelling’

Book Review: Braided by Elora Bishop (Series)

February 12, 2013 5 comments

Girl's hair with flowers and ribbons braided into it.Summary:
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel.  Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day.  The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship.  She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into.  Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.

Review:
I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, although I can be fairly picky about whether or not I like them.  But Rapunzel is a tale that is not redone often enough, in my opinion, and the fact that it was a lesbian version made me jump at this novella.

It’s nice that the retelling doesn’t just change the genders of the main romantic pairing and leave it at that.  In the original version, a married couple steal from a witch’s garden and in payment they must give her their unborn child who she then locks up into a tower.  She would let her long hair down for her witch/mother to use as a ladder to get into the tower.  A prince years later hears her singing in the tower and helps her escape.  In this retelling, the people worship a tree.  When the tree starts to die they tie its spirit into a person.  That person lives on a platform in the tree and the people pray to him/her.  When the person dies, the fate to be tied to the tree randomly chooses a baby by putting a tree pattern on their chest.  This fate is supposed to be Gray’s, but her mother somehow acquires another baby, Zelda, and with magic cuts the fate out and ties it to her instead.  Gray knows this and at first visits Zelda out of guilt but eventually falls in love with her.  This version, surprisingly, is actually a lot more fantastical and magical.  There is even a quest within an alternate dimension/dream world.  I enjoyed the increase in the otherworldly feel, and I liked that it lent the twist of a parent trying to protect her child rather than a mother smothering her child.

The writing has an earthy, magical quality to it.  It’s definitely language that is looking to be pretty, and it mostly succeeds.  The romance between Zelda and Gray is sweet and very YA.  Their passion revolves entirely around kissing and holding.  I like that it gives a soul and connection to the romance without ignoring the physical aspect.  It’s the perfect balance for this type of story.

While I enjoyed reading the story, I must admit it wasn’t my ideal retelling of Rapunzel.  I didn’t like the religious aspect that was drawn into it, and I did feel that Zelda falling for Gray was a bit fast, particularly given the fate switching aspect of the story.  I was also disappointed to see that in spite of all the other changes in the story, the Rapunzel character is still blonde.  I’m not sure why no one ever seems to change this when retelling Rapunzel.

Overall, this is a fun retelling of Rapunzel, particularly if you’re looking for a non-heteronormative slant or enjoy a more magical feel.  Note that this is part of a series entitled Sappho’s Fables, which consists of lesbian retellings of fairy tales.  The novellas may be mixed and matched.  Recommended to GLBTQ YA fans who enjoy a fairy tale.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

March 26, 2012 5 comments

Line drawing of a woman.Summary:
Hopefully anyone who’s read The Odyssey remembers Odysseus’s long-suffering wife, Penelope, who waited years for his return from the Trojan War, all while raising their son and fending off suitors who were eating her out of house and home.  Here, Atwood turns the focus from Odysseus onto Penelope, who from the underworld of Hades tells us about her own life, interspersed with choruses by the 12 maids who were hung to death upon Odysseus’s return.

Review:
I’ve taken to loading an audiobook on my ipod for those frequent times when I either have to walk from a T stop or am crammed onto a train with literally no elbow-room to hold onto my kindle.  I was excited to see this on the shelf at my library, since I had decided rather spur of the moment to pick one up, and I do love Atwood.  Plus, this is only three discs long, which is good for my audiobook attention span.

For me the story ultimately fails, although I don’t blame Atwood for that.  The thing is, Penelope, to a modern woman, is kind of pathetic.  It’s not easy to make her into a heroine we can root for, the way we can root for Odysseus.  Ok, so he’s a womanizer and a liar, but he’s also brilliant and hilarious.  The kind of guy you want to be friends with, but don’t want to date.  Yet Penelope not only is married to him, but has never stood up to him.  Even when he’s been gone for years and years fighting in a war.  Atwood is a great writer, but that’s just not a situation you can fix.  I completely get Atwood’s fascination with Penelope’s story, not to mention the 12 maids.  I don’t think any woman can read The Odyssey and not wonder about it.  But it ultimately doesn’t hold up for a story.

Penelope comes across as a woman who lived in tough times to be a woman, yes, but who never does anything really to fight the status quo.  She can’t even bring herself to stand up to the elderly maid who takes the run of her household.  Plus, she willingly puts her maids into situations where they are likely to get raped (indeed, do get raped) and then doesn’t stand up for them when her wayward husband finally comes home.  Is it within character? Sure.  Is it something that holds up as the main focus of a story?  Nope.

I did enjoy Atwood’s modern take on the Greek chorus using the dead 12 maids.  I appreciate her choice to include a chorus in the book, as well as how she played with different ancient and modern music styles.  It even left me wishing the maids were the focus of the book instead of Penelope!  Of course, interspersing music between chapters is something I’ve seen Atwood do before in The Year of the Flood, and she’s very good at it.  It’s an Atwood style that works perfectly in this book.

So what does this all ultimately mean?  Atwood’s writing style is creative and pleasant as always, but the topic of the book just isn’t.  I think the constraints of who Penelope is from such an ancient story placed a sour note on Atwood’s work that normally isn’t there.  It’s an interesting exercise, but not one I found particularly enjoyable to read.  I was more interested in it as an academic exercise.  If you’re a fan of retellings of the classics, you’ll be intrigued by it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

March 16, 2011 6 comments

Woman wearing red cape in front of woods.Summary:
Valerie has always lived in a small village surrounded by a dark forest haunted by a werewolf every month at the full moon.  For the last ten years the wolf has kept the peace with the town by accepting a sacrifice of a beloved livestock.  Now Valerie is a woman and planning on eloping with her lover, Peter, to escape an undesired marriage to the smith’s son, Henry.  Just as they are about to elope, though, Valerie’s sister is found dead.  The victim of the wolf.  Now the town brings in a priest of questionable character in an attempt to rid them of the curse once and for all.

Review:
To me this film was truly all about atmosphere, being a feast for the eyes like the village is a feast for the wolf.  Although the first few moments of the film are set in harvest time, the rest of it is during winter, complete with beautiful snowfall scenes.  The village itself is simultaneously sinister and picturesque.  What truly makes the atmosphere though is the costuming.  Gorgeous elbow-length knitted gloves.  Covetable dresses with the perfect waist-length.  Sleeveless cloaks worn by all in demure shades that truly make Valerie’s red cloak pop when she receives it from her grandmother.  The entire atmosphere screams fairy tale.

The story was of course re-written with red riding hood made into a young woman instead of a little girl.  The character of the wolf became more complex than just the big bad wolf in the woods.  However, the key creepy elements of the fairy tale remain.  In all honesty, I was surprised at how good of an updated adaptation this was, and I’ve seen my fair share of fairy tale adaptations.

The one draw-back was the awkward love triangle inserted into the story.  There was one scene in particular that simply screamed “This director also directed Twilight!”  Ugh.  I’m getting incredibly sick of love triangles existing in any story that features young adults.  Plus this scene elicited laughter from the audience, which I am pretty sure was not what the director was going for.

Overall, however, this was a delightful adaptation of a beloved fairy tale.  I recommend it to lovers of fairy tales and adaptations, as well as those who enjoy an exquisite atmosphere in film.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: AMC movie theater

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