Do Retellings

I was responding to some comments on reviews a few weeks ago, when I came to one from the lovely Emma @ Miss Print. She was talking about Tell the Wind and Fire, and asking if I’d read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which the book is a sort of retelling of. Emma had read AToTC and she quite enjoyed TtWaF, so it got me thinking: Does one have to be familiar with the source for a retelling to work?

Now, you might not get too worked up about my distaste for Dickens. But when I start telling you all the other things that I either didn’t read/watch/know much about, you’re going to start shaking your heads. So let’s just get it out of the way:

Full confession: I don’t like classics or Disney movies.

I know what you’re thinking….

And I know. It’s weird, right? To be a bookperson, and yet have a strong disdain for a pretty significant group of stories doesn’t make any sense. And who knows, maybe if I gave some of them another chance, it’d work out, but to be perfectly honest, I am fine enjoying the stories I do enjoy. So I am in no rush to recreate some kind of missed childhood opportunity to watch Peter Pan or something. 

So that’s what we’re working with. If I have read a retelling, I often don’t even know that it was one until later, when someone adds it to a list of retellings or something. Remember when I used to be scared of retellings? As it turns out, I’d read some that I never even knew were retellings. Oops? But the question I really want to know the answer to is this:

Does it make me less qualified to review the book if I have never read the story from which it’s being retold from?

I honestly don’t know the answer. On one hand, it isn’t like the book is a sequel- it’s not supposed to be the same story, obviously. But on the other, am I appreciating certain stories less because I haven’t read and/or liked the source material? I have given retellings anywhere from 5 stars to 1 star, and everywhere in between, so I don’t think that I need to like the source to give an opinion, especially when taking other things like character development, writing, general plot, etc., into consideration. But in the situation with Tell the Wind and Fire, would I have appreciated the world building more if I’d been more in tune with A Tale of Two Cities? Would certain things have “clicked” more for me? We’ll never know, basically.

So, I shall ask you, my darlings! 

Do you think it's important to know/like the source when reading/reviewing a retelling?

View Results

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So, what say you? How helpful is it to know and/or like a story in order to read and enjoy the retelling? Are there books that you have loved the retelling of, but didn’t care much for the original? 

Posted May 2, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Discussion, Discussion Challenge / 56 Comments


56 responses to “Do Retellings Have Prerequisites?

  1. I love reading retellings, I find them quite interesting. I don’t think you have to know the original story for you to review a retelling, you just go into it like it’s a normal read or just quickly google it, and get the gist if you are going to comment on it in a reivew.
    Thanks for the Post

  2. This is such an interesting topic! I often know that it’s a retelling before I start -often due to the Goodreads genres. But I haven’t read many classics either… And obviously, I don’t know every fairy tale! I don’t think you have to truly know the original story to read a re-telling. It’s its own book! If it’s a spin-off, that’s different. But for a re-telling, I don’t think it’s truly necessary.

  3. I don’t think it’s required to know a lot about a classic/fairytale to read a retelling of it. I’m pretty sure I’ve read at least a few books I didn’t even know was a retelling until I finished it and looked it up on Goodreads. (And at least one of them that I didn’t even know was a retelling of a classic that actually exists.)

    I think, as a retelling, it should also be easy to comprehend as its own book and not depend on the reader’s knowledge about the classic it was based on to be more understandable. Like the what one of the options in your poll said, “It’s its own book for a reason.”

    Really interesting post, Shannon!

  4. Usually, when I about the read a retelling book and the original story is one that I’m not familiar with, I’d go to wikipedia and read the plot. I think it help me to understand the plot of the retelling better, but I don’t think it will affect my opinion on the retelling in any way. Even if I dislike the original story, there’s still a chance I’ll love the retelling one!

  5. This is such an incredible discussion, Shannon (as always, really). I was kind of just thinking about something similar since I’m reading a retelling myself ATM… and knowing what it is a retelling of, is actually spoiling the book. If I didn’t know it was a retelling, the story would be fine, but because I do, I know that there’s going to have to be a twist at the end that makes it a retelling of that story. Does that even make sense? And look, I don’t think that’s right. I think retellings should distinguish themselves from their original – have ties to it obviously since it is where it is getting it’s inspiration, but not to the point that (if you haven’t read the original) it makes less sense. It should be able to stand on itself, but still makes ties to the original so that we can see it’s links if we are familiar/fans of the original. Am I rambling? I feel like I’m ramling now. Hopefully that all made sense. 😉

    And can I just say OH MY GOODNESS, SHANNON. YOU DON’T LIKE DISNEY?? HOW?? Just… *sobs*. Not going to lie that breaks my heart a little bit, but don’t worry, I cannot stand classics myself. Never read one that I’ve truly enjoyed (Of Mice and Men was okay though). And I guess, to each their own. <33

  6. I do not think you need to even be aware it’s a retelling.

    Most people don’t realize The Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet or the O Brother Where Art Thou? is a retelling of the Odyssey..I think that’s the one.

    Anyway…enjoy the book for the sake of the book!

    • Ha, good point about The Lion Kind and Hamlet! I think I’ve even read that before, but apparently it didn’t stick. So many stories are retellings or inspired by other works and a lot of the time we don’t even notice!

  7. It’s interesting that when I did the poll it was half and half between the first two answers – because I lie in the spectrum between those two!

    I think it helps a great deal to have a familiar or a background knowledge, because then like you say, you’re able to understand certain parts of the retelling and why x did this and y did that, but then at the same time, a retelling is also it’s own text, and you don’t need to know the “back story” before you read it. Sure it helps – but it’s not the be all.

    And some retellings – I don’t even know if I’d call them retellings – maybe reimaginings? Like I don’t really see the Beauty and the Beast aspect of A Court of Thorns and Roses (okay, that’s a lie, I can see it there, but it’s not a strict retelling!).

    At the end of the day, a novel – retelling or original – is what you make of it.

  8. Omg if we start talking about who’s “qualified” to do anything…it’s like a loooong slipper slope to DOOM. We are ALL allowed to do whatever we want when it comes to reviewing, I firmly believe. 😉 😂 (And this is coming from the person who recently got told off for “reviewing a book wrong” because I had no personal experience with the minority it was written about, ergo had no rights to give my opinion. SAY WUT NOW.) AHHHHEM. So I think retellings should be able to stand on their own! I don’t think you *have* to have read/loved/known the original.

    Omg, I read a TON of Cinderella retellings and I really dislike the Cinderella story. 😂

    Although I think knowing the original will make it more special???? Like I really want to read Jane Steele but isn’t it an Austen or Bronte retelling? IDEK. I DON’T EVEN READ CLASSICS. 😂

    I think at the end of the day — we do what we want. (MWAHAHHAHA.) No qualifications needed. 😉 Also if a book relies too heavily on another source to make sense then THAT is the problem. *nods*

  9. I don’t read Dickens either. I read Tell the Wind and Fire and mentioned it in my review, but it didn’t deter me from reading it at all. I don’t think it matters about retellings. It helps if you know the story, but not required reading. (at least it shouldn’t be)
    I am so surprised you don’t like Disney movies. WHAT? Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast were my absolute favorites. I still think they are funny to watch. I don’t watch any of the new kid movies if I can help it. Even if it is cute, I don’t want to waste anymore of my life watching kid shows. I am excited about Dori tho. I did like Finding Nemo a lot.
    Great topic, sorry i ran off on a rabbit trait.

  10. I think anyone who thinks another reader isn’t ‘qualified’ to review a book simply because they might not be familiar with the source material needs to get off their high horse! Ultimately I don’t think retellings could be published if all readers had to be familiar with the story it’s retelling – these stories need to be approachable for everyone, and if you are familiar with the original story it’s just an added bonus. 🙂

  11. I think a good retelling should work without everyone knowing what it references. Take the Lunar Chronicles for example. It’s awesome to piece together the elements from the fairytales, but the books deeefinitely also work without knowing them. For example, there’s a whole part in Cress that technically references Rapunzel (is that the English name of the fairy tale too? I’m just assuming it now) that I didn’t even remember until I looked it up, but I loved that part of the book anyway. I think it’s a fantastic extra to be able to snoop out all the references and sometimes it’s beneficial to know the source because the retelling references it in some sort of really clever way that is also a commentary (I guess a retelling is always a commentary of the original?), but if it’s a good retelling it also works as a story regardless. I do think you might get a deeper understanding of a work when you know what it’s based on, but I’d never say you have to know the original to review the book!

    • Also, I will forgive you for the Disney comment, because I’m going to pretend it’s based on a deep seated trauma caused by Bambi and the like, BUT if you ever want to give it a chance again, I’d HIGHLY recommend Anastasia (such beautiful art), Tangled (so cheerful and funny, I love it to bits), and of course Beauty and the Beast because Belle. I mean you have kids, so maybe you’ve seen all of these ten thousand times and hate them anyway, but… I had to mention it to go on with my day in good conscience. Okay, that’s all.

  12. I don’t read a lot of retellings because I haven’t had much luck finding ones I like. I do wish that I knew more about myths and fairytales. I often come across things that seem like myth or fairytale references in books, but I’m usually not sure because I don’t have a strong background in those types of stories. I’ve been considering buying books about common myths and fairytales just to educate myself.

  13. I haven’t read any classics at all but yes to the Disney movies! You said Peter Pan and I was like, “Never liked that one” haha I mostly like Beauty and the Beast. That’s my number one for sure. Also, I had never in my life seen The Jungle Book but went to the movies to see the most recent one and wow! It was so good! But I’m not watching the original one haha I don’t think I would like it.

    Anyways, to me, I agree on the stand of retellings being their own thing but at the same time, maybe know a bit? I’m not saying “go watch the movie and read the book!” Not at all. I’m saying to know the basics, which can be solved wit Google haha And I’mm not saying for me to read the review and know you know the background. No. It’s really for you so you can see if those major things were changed or twisted or what. Again, Google haha I actually do it with some retellings I have to read. I want to know if the basis of the the retelling has something of the original one so I google, read reviews, etc.

    Great discussion, Shannon!

    • The music in the original Jungle Book is fantastic and the voice actors are top notch in that one. Probably the best out of that period of time.

      I love Peter Pan and all its retellings like Hook.

      Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite and definitely deserved its Academy Award nomination.

      My second favorite in classically animated ones is Lilo and Stitch. The story isn’t a fairy tale, for the first time in my life I wanted to visit Hawaii, the watercolor style artwork is gorgeous, and it has so much heart.

  14. I went to a Leigh Bardugo book signing and Sarah Rees Brennan was also there…and she was flipping hilarious! That alone MADE me buy her book Tell the Wind and Fire.. then she said it was a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities (one of her favorites)… then she starts talking about Edgar Allan Poe and Dickens being buddies.. I LOLed so hard it was soooo funny.

    Anyway, I think that we can read whatever we want. And it doesn’t have to be a requirement to read the inspirational material before reading a retelling. Plus, I admit to not reading a lot of classics. Not reading classics does not make me less of a bookworm, thankyouverymuch! So, there!

    Personally, I *try* to read at least a blurb of a classic before reading it’s retelling. Only because I want to know what it’s all about and how to relates to the retold book. But it’s not necessarily a MUST for me. I mean honestly, NEVER read Peter Pan and my education comes from watching the Disney version so…

    However, I also think reading the source material has value. You can only find easter eggs if you have read it and it also is a different experience. But it shouldn’t have to be a requirement…

    • I’ve read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights but other than that I’m not much of reader of classics.

      Gone with the Wind is my favorite movie and I loathe the book.

  15. *dies a little bit because you don’t like Disney*

    Here’s what I think about retellings: A GOOD retelling will be enjoyable, not confusing and give you an idea of the original story without you having to read the original work the book is based on. Not many authors are actually great at that, in my opinion, but when an author is able to capture that, it’s wonderful.

    I do think you can miss a few little nuggets here and there though if you’re not familiar with the original work, but I don’t think it should take away from your enjoyment and have you scratching your head in confusion. Instead, those nuggets should be like little extras for those who have read the original works.

    Anyways, very interesting post, Shannon.

    *still dying*

  16. there are tons or retellings I have read that I have never read or know what the original was about. I am currently going through some classics just to say I did I guess… to see if I like them. and most of them I do not. SO not missing much there and I dont think it takes away from the current book at all. Its a book all on its won. so enjoy the retellings as retellings, reimagines, or a whole new book. doesn’t matter to me.

  17. I’ve been thinking about this topic recently because I finished Tell the Wind and Fire last week and I didn’t really care for it, despite my love for some of Brennan’s other work. I’ve never read A Tale of Two Cities and I wondered if I would have enjoyed it more if I had.
    There was a YA re-telling of Persuasion I also read recently and I really did not like it at all, but I gave it a slightly higher rating because I thought some of the parallels to Persuasion were well done, whereas if I’ve never read Persuasion I probably would have just given the book 1 star.
    So I don’t think you necessarily have to be familiar with the source book to form a solid opinion of a re-telling, but I think if you are familiar you will appreciate it more (or less, as the case may be).

  18. I love reading reviews of retellings – of both kinds! Sometimes I read books without reading the original and love them just as much. I think MOST of the time you don’t have to be familiar with it. I’ve also seen PLENTY of reviews where people had too high of hopes for the book because they love the original so much, and then they end up hating the retelling because it doesn’t do it justice. Personally, if I read a retelling review, I do like KNOWING if the person has read the original or not. It gives me a good frame of reference when reading the review. I’ll totally read both kinds though and appreciate them both!

  19. What a lovely discussion post (: I’m a little stuck on how you don’t love Disney haha. I mean I’m not the biggest Disney fan ever, but I still have a deep appreciation for some classics like Lion King, Aladdin and like every Pixar film ever. Sometimes the singing can annoy me though I think that is more due to my dislike of anything resembling a musical haha.

    I think being knowledgeable about the source material of a retelling can certainly add a extra layer of depth, understanding and appreciation to the reading experience. You may get those little references and links to the original that somebody unfamiliar with the source material might miss. However, I feel like a solid retelling should be able to stand on its own as a unique and original novel so that everybody can enjoy it. Like you wouldn’t want to read a carbon copy of the original anyways, I feel like retellings should have a purpose to be different from the original while still maintaining some elements.

    Retellings shouldn’t just be restricted in a way that only those who have read the source material would understand it. That would seriously be limiting your audience haha, not good from a marketing perspective. Furthermore it’s just good writing that you shouldn’t have a story so confusing that you’d have to read an original to get it.

    Lovely discussion post Shannon (: I feel everybody can read retellings, definitely. I just think that those who have read the original may enjoy it more/less than somebody unaware of the source material

  20. Ooooh. Super interesting topic. I think I feel the opposite? For example, I love, love, love (multiplied by a couple more love) Peter Pan, more specifically, anything Captain Hook related. I can’t for the life of me find a Peter Pan retelling that I love. I am constantly comparing it to the original, and I always have a certain expectation. I’d think if you had zero knowledge of the original, it would keep you from creating expectations, you know? Wait, but on the other hand, I really enjoyed A Wicked Thing mostly because I thought it was such an interesting spin on Sleeping Beauty. If I didn’t know anything about Sleeping Beauty, would I have thought the same thing? I DON’T KNOW! :O Either way, I think you very entitled to review any retelling! If anything, you’d have a different outlook on the story than someone who knows the original. Besides, the book should not be excused from poor world-building just because it’s a retelling!

  21. This is a really interesting question Shannon! I feel like you should at least be familiar with the original content of the retelling you’re reading, just so you can see how the author has taken the original story and remade it. You don’t have to know it inside out, but I think you should at least be familiar with it so you know what’s going on. Of course, though, it’s up to you. Thanks for sharing Shannon and, as always, fabulous discussion! ♥

  22. Sam

    You definitely don’t have to read or even be familiar with the original story in order to read or enjoy a retelling. However, I think it can make reading the retelling more fun because you recognize certain motifs or similarities and then you can compare this new modern story to the classic original.

  23. I don’t think anyone NEEDS to read the original to enjoy or review a retelling. Personally, however, I do read the original before reading a retelling. Many originals are short, anywhere from a few paragraphs to maybe 30 pages. And some classics, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which I read this years, are like novellas. For me, it does make the retelling more fun. I like finding the ways that the author actually uses the original, the bits and pieces they take from it, the way they alter it, the creativity they bring to it, etc. It’s kind of like watching one of those movies that parodies things and being able to recognize the references. And Disney movies are retellings themselves, so I try to read the actual original rather than trust the movie. And I kind of get aggravated that so many authors retell the Disney version rather than the original lol.

    Anyway, that’s my take it on. I like reading the originals, but I don’t think it’s a requirement.

  24. Whenever I see a retelling, I need to know what it’s a retelling of, or else I feel like I can’t read it. I like to know what I’m expecting when diving into a book, even if there are only one or two things that are similar. But sometimes knowing the story that the book is based on can impact your opinion of the book. If you knew the fairy tale that the book was based on and didn’t like it, then you might have a low opinion of the book. You might not enjoy it as much as you could have if you didn’t know the story. Other times a book might be inspired by a fairy tale, but not really have many similarities. Throne of Glass is supposed to be based on Cinderella, but it doesn’t have many Cinderella elements. I don’t know. It’s a double edged sword I guess.

  25. I’ve definitely wondered if it makes me less qualified to review a book when I haven’t read the original. That’s happened to me quite a few times, actually, and I always state that specifically in my review. Because others have rated it lower for reasons having to do with the original, and I would have no idea what they’re even talking about. I honestly hate things being categorized as a retelling anyway, because really HOW similar are they supposed to be. If they differ a bit, people go nuts with the hate… but aren’t they supposed to differ? IDK. Great topic, girlie!! 🙂

  26. As with everything it all depends! It can be really great to see how imaginative the author has been with reinventing an original, but I think I probably judge a retelling more harshly because of the added factor ‘did it do the original justice?’. I have read lots of retellings without having read the original and as far as if it’s ‘right’ well who cares! Stunning topic 🙂

  27. You know, it’s funny, because so many books BASED on Pride and Prejudice tell you this in the summary. I don’t see that with a lot of other books that are based on or retellings of classics. If you really need to know the classic, then what’s the point of the retelling? Yes, it’s fun for people that know the original source and can make those connections. However, I think people like the idea of retellings because it gives you parts of the classics but in a more contemporary setting for those people that do not read classics or just haven’t read this particular one. I like some classics, but I don’t read a ton of them and I don’t find it necessary to know all about the classic when reading a retelling.

    -Lauren

  28. I think it is a good idea (when possible) to at least know the premise of the story. You may never read the book and (more rarely) never seen any movie or show for it, but I would think it helps a little to at least have heard of it (read a summary , etc). While not required it does show a but more knowledge. But the review is still for the book you read. Unless the author has expressed it as a retelling in the synopsis or something, just go with it and enjoy!
    I prefer fantasy retellings more than classics. Mainly because I am not a very big classic book fan (although I have challenged myself to actually read more in the next few years). One thing I like to do (for myself) is a compare and contrast.
    A retelling is meant to be different, hopefully original to a degree. Read it for the story it is and hopefully enjoy it. That is what really matters in my opinion.

  29. Great question!! I think you should be at least a little familiar with the original story, because otherwise the “inside jokes” of the retelling are missed. Retellings are more interesting when you know the elements that are being tossed on their head and twisted around. For example, Wicked (the musical) is amazing on its own, but I think I love it more because I grew up watching Wizard of Oz.

  30. I don’t think I’ve ever read a retelling that was so closely tied to the source material, I needed to have read it first. Does knowing the source material help you appreciate the details of the retelling, or enrich the experience? Yeah, probably in most cases. But it seems more a nice perk than a prerequisite. Of course, it can also be frustrating- if you love the source material, and the retelling is only superficially a retelling, it’s frustrating to have the story in the context of retelling…because, of course, if it’s a retelling then you expect it to really pay homage to the source material.

  31. While I do personally prefer to be familiar with the original story first, I don’t think you necessarily need to have read it to enjoy a retelling. Like, if you absolutely need to read another book to ‘get’ the retelling, then it’s clear that the retelling doesn’t work as its own novel. For me, a good retelling is one that should work on its own, regardless of whether you’ve read the original material. If a retelling relies on the original work to be a decent read, then it clearly fails to be an actual good book. That being said, the advantage of being familiar with the original work is that you get little ‘extras’ in terms of nods to certains scenes and characters and perhaps inside jokes as well. However, knowing the original work might sometimes predict or even spoil the ending of the retelling, so nope, I personally don’t think it’s obligatory to have read the original work. I mean, so long you’re enjoying what you’re reading, either way is fine ^^

  32. Great discussion Shannon and so many things to think about! I don’t think you have to have read an original in order to read a retelling at all — they are different for a reason. If you have read the original prior to the retelling, it does put you in a different perspective (although not always good) to review the retelling. Sometimes reading a retelling will even make you want to read the original after the fact which is cool, too! I think when I’ve read the original (especially if I love it) prior to the retelling, it makes me more critical because I’m reading it as a retelling rather than its own unique story. Sometimes this is good but then sometimes my expectations are just crazy (read my recent review of Eligible for a good example of this). As always, ♥ your perspective!!

  33. I’m so honored to have had a comment lead to a discussion post!

    I have to admit that I am a bit suspicious of anyone who says they like a genre or type of book/movie out of hand. I would say that maybe you just haven’t found the right classic (maybe it’s the librarian in me?) but it’s also your prerogative to choose what you do and don’t read.

    I don’t think you have to read every book that inspires a retelling (who has the time?) but I do think it’s important to know the material. I think you can engage with a retelling better and I think it’s fun to see when the author is being intentional. To return to Tell the Wind and Fire, I think the narrative voice/style was an obvious nod to Dickens which I think was a turnoff for a lot of readers who either did not like Dickens or did not read Dickens to begin with.

    That said, I think if a retelling does its job it should inspire the reader (if they are so inclined to pick up the source material). For instance I read and loved For Darkness Shows the Stars so much so that I immediately read the book that inspired it (Persuasion by Jane Austen) for the first time. As a reviewer, if a book is pitched as a retelling, I think it’s also a nice idea to research the background just to see if the author did their homework. But again, that’s me. Being aware of a book’s background and choosing to read it on its own is also a valid choice. For some YALSA awards like the Printz a big criterion is can the book stand on its own if it is part of a series–something that I’m sure also translates to a book that is a retelling.

  34. I love retellings and they can be so much fun however I don’t think you necessarily need to know the main story line of the retelling. In my experience, authors take them however they want, it just has a basis for the plot or story line. So its fun seeing where the author goes with it.

  35. I don’t think you have to even know about the source material. I mean, it could be interesting to compare, but it should be a compelling enough novel to stand on its own without knowing what it’s based on. Hell, I’ve read a few books not even knowing they were retellings when I went into it. If it was required to read the source material, then I’ll just read the source material and no retellings. So no, you shouldn’t have to read the source material in order to have an opinion. That’s like saying you can’t like a movie without reading the source material or watching the original (if its a remake). Yeah, sure, us readers have read it and complain about changes, but people can still watch it without reading. Look at all the Marvel movies that everyone loves – you think everyone read the Civil War comics? Doubt it.

    Great topic btw!

  36. You don’t like Disney movies?!? INSANITY! Ha. I can totally relate about the classics thing though. I like a few of them, but for the most part, they are not for me. Oh well. I do NOT think reading the original story is a must for a retelling. I have never read 1001 Nights, but I freaking ADORE The Wrath and the Dawn. I think that you can adore a story in its own right without knowing anything about the original story. Love this post!

  37. This is an interesting discussion! I think being familiar with the source adds a fun element to the reading experience of a retelling, but it’s not necessary. One of my favourite things about retellings is noticing the twist an author has put on a certain plot point. On the other hand, not knowing the source material probably means you’re in for more surprises!

  38. This is really interesting. In my opinion, I think we should at least familiar about the story, or know what it’s about. I usually wikipedia/google the whole thing if I’m completely clueless about it. I think knowledge about the story could affect what we thought about the book. Is it too similar with the original one that it feels like a rip-off? Is it too different it doesn’t feel like a retellings? Does the author managed to use the elements of the original story and twisted it, so it’s both familiar and original? It just adds so much depth and thought while reviewing the books! 😀

  39. I don’t think the fact that one doesn’t know the original story is a problem when you’re going to review. Maybe it’d have taken from your experience because you don’t think it made the original justice, or loved it because it’s just the perfect ‘retelling’ of it. But in the other hand, I think it might actually be awesome if a retelling could be judged without taking into account the fact that it is a retelling. It gives it another perspective. I think that I reviewer in this situation wouldn’t be at a disadvantage at all.

  40. This is actually a really interesting thought because I was wondering about this when I was reading Jane Steele. I’ve never managed to successfully finish Jane Eyre which the book is inspired by/based upon so I was concerned I wouldn’t like this book despite the good things I’d heard. Thankfully, all concerns were unfounded but I did wonder a similar thing. Do you have to like the original to like a retelling of a book? I think a lot of the time it’s the way it’s written, I may not like one approach due to the way it’s written but when someone else takes a shot it’s totally up my street. Why question it?

  41. Okay, first off I had no idea this Tale of Wind and Fire book (which I’ve never heard of) was a retelling of AToTC, but I actually loved the original back when I was a youngster and had more brain cells and actually enjoyed reading classics. Now I will have to go find ToWaF and read it!
    As far as your question goes, though, I think the answer is “no” – you shouldn’t have to read the original in order to review a retelling because there are going to be lots of people out there who haven’t read the original either, and they should be able to read some reviews from people who are in the same boat. In the end, I think a book should stand up well on its own, even if it’s a retelling, but usually having read the original makes the reading that much more enjoyable because you get all the little references that others might miss.

  42. I’m totally with you on hating classics, but you lost me at ‘I hate Disney’ *cries*
    I don’t think fairytales have to follow rules, I actually don’t like when they are too similar to the original story. I like a good twist but not one too far off.

  43. I think it adds something to have read the source material, but if the book ONLY works with that background, then it’s not very good, IMO. The first example I thought of was Clueless, which I LOVED when I just saw it as a movie. Then I found out it was based on Emma, and I had so much fun figuring out all the connections. I also didn’t realize for awhile that Bridget Jone’s Diary was a P&P retelling.

    Marissa Meyers does great adaptations, and it’s fun to see how the fairy tales pop up in her work, but the stories stand strong without that knowledge too.

    I just read a picture book with my kids that retold fairy tales as hard-boiled mysteries. It was cute, but I was actually a little disappointed that they didn’t offer more of a twist. Goldilocks was found guilty of B&E, Gretel was able to plead self-defense, etc.

  44. You don’t like classics OR Disney movies?! Oh dear, whatever shall we do xD Only kidding! It’s perfectly okay for you to have your own preference. Although this was a very interesting question. I don’t think you need to be familiar with the original to be able to read/review/enjoy the retelling. As you’ve said, you’ve read quite a few books you didn’t even know were retellings! I also like to read the original source first, but sometimes I just haven’t. It’s like the question of whether it is really necessary for you to read the book before going to see the movie…

  45. I think to be good, a retelling should stand on its own – although you should also find it enhances your reading experience if you read the original as well. I think the most recent example I read is Nelly Dean by Alison Case, which retells Wuthering Heights from the servant’s point of view. The story carries itself independently, but you won’t appreciate the changes and twists Case has made unless you read Bronte’s novel. Anyway, great question!

  46. I think if you have read the story the retelling is based on you will experience the story in another way and probably see more similarities, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read the story a retelling is based on. I personally haven’t read a lot of retellings myself, so I can’t realy share my personal experience on the topic, but I usually prefer not to see too many similarities. I have watched most Dinsey movies as a kid though, so retellings based on those I will always recognize. I would like to give a retelling a try where I haven’t read the original story it’s based on and see how that reads. Great post!

  47. I don’t think you need to know the source material to enjoy the retelling. If the retelling is well done it can stand on its own. You might miss some of the “in jokes” or whatever you want to call them, but if the author does their job well, it should matter if you’ve read the original.

    (I hate Dickens, too.)

  48. I definitely think books that are based off classics need to add enough to it’s own story to be able to stand on it’s own you know? Otherwise if it’s a carbon copy of it save for a few twists then there’s just no point.

  49. Occasionally I’ll read a retelling and only realize it afterwards when I’m reading other reviews, but more often than not, I’ll find retellings through searches on Goodreads or Google. They’re just so fun to read….

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