What’s Old Is New Again | Wyatt’s World

There is great pleasure to be found in a twice-told tale that borrows liberally and inventively from existing literature. From fictional takes on how a famous story came into being to a recasting of a Shakespeare play, there are plenty of fall books that literally mine the backlist.

  • Mrs. Osmond by John Banville (Knopf) and Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn (Hogarth: Crown).
    Henry James’s Isabel Archer and William Shakespeare’s King Lear are brought forth anew in works getting critical praise. Banville stunningly continues James’s 1881 The Portrait of a Lady, keeping the story in its original late 19th-century New York setting, while St. Aubyn deftly transports the medieval Lear to the present day.
  • For the Winner: A Novel of Jason and the Argonauts by Emily Hauser (Pegasus).
    This second book in Hauser’s “Golden Apple” series continues the author’s focus on Greek mythology retold with a feminist eye. Here, she looks to Princess Atalanta, a woman robbed of her birthright who fights for her own claim—even if that means setting her will against that of mythology’s greatest heroes.
  • Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire (Morrow).
    Maguire might as well be an alchemist, as he repeatedly takes the threads of well-known stories and transforms them into rich new works, as proven most recently with Wicked. Now he turns his attention to the beloved story of the Nutcracker, spinning from it a very different tale of searching and becoming, nestled within fairy tales.
  • Mr. Dickens and His Carol: A Novel of Christmas Past by Samantha Silva (Flatiron: Macmillan).
    The charm of Silva’s debut rests in how the author mines Charles Dickens’s biography and the Victorian London setting of his famous Christmas Carol to pen her own festive novel, featuring a busy and driven Dickens in dire need of inspiration.
  • Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer (Mariner: Houghton Harcourt).
    This lush historical fantasy set in Victorian London offers a twist on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which sisters Evadne and Dorina Gray venture to London so that Dorina can study art under her Uncle Basil. As per Wilde’s story, other familiar characters appear, with interesting coils and spins of their own. Simmering below it all is a supernatural conflict involving demons.
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