List Headline Image
Updated by Valley Libraries Radio Reference on Feb 08, 2021
Headline for January 7-10, 2020: Retellings
 REPORT
3 items   0 followers   0 votes   10 views

January 7-10, 2020: Retellings

Valley Libraries Radio Reference is starting the new year out with a fresh take on familiar stories. This week, we’re highlighting books that bring a new perspective to characters or tales you may already know.

1

Ali's selection

Ali's selection

Circeby Madeline Miller weaves familiar Greek myths like the birth of the Minotaur, the dreaded sea monster Scylla, and Jason and the Argonauts into a lush tapestry of the goddess Circe’s long and often lonely life. In The Odyssey, she’s made out to be a vengeful witch who entraps Odysseus. Miller’s book shows Circe as a powerful sorceress whose past has taught her that humans and gods alike are often cruel and selfish, and turning men who would otherwise destroy your home into pigs seems a fitting compromise. Miller’s previous novel is called Achilles, and gives a deeper glimpse into a famous Greek hero’s life told from the perspective of Patroclus, his lifelong friend and in this version, lover. Both are beautifully written - you can feel the characters’ ache of expectations, their yearning for love, and desire to live their own lives. Both are excellent reads.

2

Sarah's selection

Sarah's selection

Home Fireby Kamila Shamsie is a modern retelling of Antigone by Sophoclees. It explores the relationship between three siblings of Pakistani descent who live in England. Each grapples with xenophobia, the loss of their parents, and the legacy of terror in his or her own way. Shamsie is a gifted storyteller, eliciting sympathy for characters unexpectedly as she takes us into Isis territory when the brother deserts England for Syria. The final scenes reminded me of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto with how immediately and precisely the language conveyed what happens on the page. I was so wrapped up in this book that I alternated between the audiobook for my commute and the paper copy because I couldn't bear to put it down.

3

Jamie's selection

Jamie's selection

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is rooted in the Chthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s world of eldritch horrors and uncaring elder gods had a profound influence on modern horror writing. It’s also threaded through with racism that was blatant even for its time. That’s where Victor LaValle comes in, dragging the uncomfortable subtext of Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” out into the light and making racism and anti-immigrant sentiment the real villain of this cosmic horror story. With the bones of the story still intact, LaValle reworks Lovecraft’s villainous Black Tom into a sympathetic figure, driven to violent magical extremes by a violently racist society that sees him as expendable. It’s every bit as creepy as Lovecraft at his best, as well as a compelling look at how a decent man becomes the villain of somebody else’s story. Whether you’re familiar with the original story or not, LaValle’s novella is riveting. (And, at 150 pages, you might actually be able to read it without putting it down).