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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Rewriting the classic novels
By Keily Oakes
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind had an official sequel
A search has begun for an author to pen a sequel to JM Barrie's Peter Pan, bringing the character created in 1904 into the 21st Century.

A literary sequel is where an author retells a story in a different way or moves the story and action on to later years, predicting what could happen to central characters in classic novels.

Jean Rhys is considered one of the foremost contemporary authors to draw inspiration from a classic to write her own novel.

She took Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and fleshed out the character known in Bronte's book as Bertha, who was described as a mad woman living in the attic.

Following in Rhys' footsteps was Emma Tennant with her reworking of Pride and Prejudice, Pemberley.

It placed Jane Austen's heroine Elizabeth Bennett as a woman married to Darcy, and exploring her worries of providing an heir to inherit the Pemberley estate.

Tampering

Tennant's book was published in 1993, 180 years after Austen's novel arrived on the scene.

There was a mixed reaction to Tennant's take on such a popular book, stamping her own mark on the story beyond what Austen had intended.

But purists were miffed such a great work was being tampered with, while refusing to believe Tennant taking on the voice of Austen.

Others welcomed the view of a new author.

"Ms Tennant's narrative is made uncomfortably compelling by her utter mastery of Jane Austen's style," wrote Robert Grudin in the New York Times.

"In its pace and sensibility, the text virtually breathes Jane Austen."

Tennant also turned her hand to putting a new spin on Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which was seen as a feminist retelling.

But Tennant was not alone in taking more than inspiration from Austen.

Around the same time as Pemberley came out, writer Julia Barrett published Presumption: An Entertainment, taking Darcy's sister Georgiana - a relatively minor character - and making her the protagonist.

Parody

Literary professor Lin Haire-Sargeant took the figure of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and moved the story on, imagining what would have happened to the hero after he had fled and how he would try to win back his lover Cathy.

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice has been a favourite for authors to revisit

US author Alexandra Ripley was chosen by the estate of Margaret Mitchell to write a sequel to Gone with the Wind.

Although Scarlett, published in 1991, received lacklustre reviews it did become a bestseller in the US and was turned into a TV mini-series.

But an unauthorised parody called The Wind Done Gone, by Alice Randall, ran into legal trouble as Mitchell's estate lobbied for it to be banned.

The story was retold from the point of view of a mixed-race plantation owner's daughter who is Gone With the Wind heroine Scarlett O'Hara's half-sister.

It was originally banned under copyright infringement law but this was later overturned by a higher court and the book was allowed to go on sale.

Reimagining

Orange Prize winner Valerie Martin took the classic horror story of Jekyll and Hyde and created a novel seen through the eyes of a maid who falls in love with Dr Jekyll.

The book received critical praise on its release, while the movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts was largely condemned.

Award-winning author Margaret Atwood called it "an astonishing tour de force".

Another novel to have been reworked or moved on by contemporise author include a sequel to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca - Mrs DeWinter by Susan Hill.

As well as established authors reimagining classic texts there has been the emergence of fan fiction, where devotees of books create their own take on a story using the same characters and settings.

The internet has fuelled the phenomenon, with websites devoted to fan fiction. 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Lord of the Rings are among the favourites used as inspiration.

As the proverb goes "everyone has a novel in them" - but for some, it may mean borrowing someone else's ideas.




SEE ALSO:
Search is on for Peter Pan sequel
20 Aug 04  |  Entertainment
Rowling backs Potter fan fiction
27 May 04  |  Entertainment
Scarlett author Ripley dies at 70
26 Jan 04  |  Entertainment
Wind parody wins appeal
12 Oct 01  |  Entertainment



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