Singing the praises of the classic rewrites
I’ve just been listening to Joanna Trollope talk about her new book, Sense and Sensibility on BBC TV. I am not a big fan of the classics, yet since I understand their historic value I admire the decision that was made to rewrite this book in a modern style. I hope many more books follow suit.
Up until about 13 years old, I was an avid reader of children books, but during my teens, having been forced to read the classics at school, I was put off reading for some 15 years. In my naivety, I believed this was how adult books were – hard to read, slow-paced and uninspiring. I hate the omniscient style of writing (multiple viewpoints at same time) and don’t believe it does anything positive for the reader, often leading to confusion.
As Joanna said this morning, at the time when Sense and Sensibility was originally written, life was very measured, and therefore so was the writing. She also added that action scenes in the original book were wrapped up in conversation. These days we require actions scenes to create tension and drama, and so they need to be more explicit. It does allow for a more enjoyable read.
I must qualify that I do not believe the actual stories in these books to be poor, quite the contrary. Jane Austen was brilliant at creating stories of immense moral value, which is why I believe a modern day version of her books to be of benefit to everyone. Of course, many people will disagree with me and will tell me part of the pleasure is to get a very real sense of the time of book was written. There is something to be said for this, but maybe it would be better for the educational system to study excerpts having advised students to read the modern version. Then there is no risk of turning our youngsters off reading forever.