Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.44: Reworking Classic Novels, Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma, and a Return to Polar Explorers

Happy Wednesday! This week, we’re talking about adaptations of classic novels and reviewing Alexander McCall Smith’s updating of Jane Austen’s Emma. We’re also getting back to our roots with a polar explorer update! You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

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Books discussed in this podcast are listed, in order, below. If any book is an adaptation of another book, the source material is listed in parentheses.

Wicked, Gregory Maguire (The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum)
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire (Cinderella. This doesn’t count.)

What a great poster.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)
Fool, Christopher Moore (King Lear, William Shakespeare)
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte)
Longbourn, Jo Baker (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
Lady’s Maid, Margaret Forster
Alias Hook, Lisa Jensen (Peter Pan, JM Barrie)

pause for you to enjoy the Go Fug Yourself recap of the live Peter Pan. It’s superb. I did look it up as soon as we were off the phone.

Re Jane, Patricia Park (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte)
Ana of California, Andi Teran (Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery)
CLUELESS even though it’s not a book, because it’s the greatest book adaptation there’s ever been.
Salome, Oscar Wilde (Salome story from the Bible!) PLUS: Dirtbag Lord Alfred Douglas.
Many Waters, Madeleine L’Engle (Noah’s Ark story from the Bible)
Behold Your Queen, Gladys Malvern (Esther story from the Bible)
Game of Queens, India Edghill
The Once and Future King, TH White (King Arthur story) (please enjoy Madam Mim)
Wishing for Tomorrow, Hilary McKay (A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Ulysses, James Joyce (the Odyssey)
The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason (READ THIS SERIOUSLY THO)

Book reviewed this week: Emma, Alexander McCall Smith
But instead of that, read Emma by Jane Austen cause it rocks, and then watch Clueless.

The Ice Master, Jennifer Niven (the story of Bartlett’s extremely disastrous journey on the Karluk)
Ada Blackjack, Jennifer Niven
All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven (the buzzy YA novel in question)

Here’s the adorable toddler who was on the Karluk trip. LOOK HOW CUTE THIS BABY:

For next time: Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall.

  • OK, I just have like a MILLION things to say (sorry!):
    – I forgot to mention this the last time, but I have a sports novel rec for Whisky Jenny! It’s The Sweetheart Season by Karen Joy Fowler. It features a group of workers post WWII that form a baseball team because… of reasons. I don’t remember much of the plot, but it was lovely!
    – Longbourn is very interesting. It does some things better than others, but overall is pretty solid. Especially if you compare it to Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma, which was BORING. And I love Alexander McCall Smith other stuff, so I was extra disappointed.
    – BTW, in the same series, I couldn’t get past page two of Sense & Sensibility, but Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey was so much fun. Catherine reads paranormal romance and thinks the Tilneys are vampires like the Cullens! SO much fun. Also, it manages to make a tiny bit of sense updating General Tilney’s awful behavior near the end.
    – ALSO, there’s a terrific novella? novellette? titled Pride & Prometheus that’s a crossover of Frankenstein and Pride & Prejudice. Mary Bennet visits her sister Elizabeth at Pemberley and meets Dr Frankenstein! It was nominated for the Hugo or the Nebula a few years ago. It was so generous towards Mary, I almost felt ashamed for dismissing her every time I read P&P.
    – I want to read Ana of California!
    – Robert Scott’s story is by far my favorite. His name was Robert FALCON Scott! How awesome IS that? Also also, wasn’t that the expedition that bought ponies that couldn’t understand their orders because they’ve been trained in other language? And something about buying them in the northern hemisphere, which meant they were shedding their hair for summer by the time the ships arrived to the south? And when Scott and the other men were dying, one of them left the tent saying he was just going outside and might be some time and never came back! (I might be wrong about ALL of this, though, because my only source of information was the episode on doomed expeditions of the Caustic Soda Podcast and that was like four years ago.)

    I’ll just click Post before I regret everything I wrote, okay? Okay.

  • So. Longbourn. I found it really, really clever in some ways, especially the servants’ perspectives on the P&P characters. But I was also really annoyed by aspects of it.

    And Re: Jane was a disappointment. I gave up after 50 pages or so. I love the idea of it, but I didn’t like Jane Re much. I think she suffered as a character because I was being asked to compare her to my beloved Jane Eyre. It wasn’t terrible, but I decided it wasn’t worth the time it took to read the whole thing. (And from the little bit I’ve read about it, I don’t think I’d have liked where it went.)

  • Quickdrawkiddo

    Have you guys not seen the excellent movie of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead? It’s EXCELLENT. Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. I rest my case.

    Also it looks like all of Gladys Malvern’s Bible story novels are available for the Kindle! They sound pretty great. I would like y’all to read all of them and then recap them for the show because the Esther story recap was totally delightful.

  • Christy

    That toddler is the cutest! And I looked her up to see what her name was and found that there was a cat that also survived the Karluk shipwreck. The cat’s name was Nigigugauraq.

    Loved the retelling of Esther, especially as one of you had not known the story previously. Irreversible decrees!

  • Fenella

    Hi Jenny & Jenny,

    This was my first episode listening. It was fun, and I had some laugh out loud moments. My best friend recommended it to
    me, especially since she and I just finished AMS’s Emma.

    One thing that bothered me that you didn’t mention was the age difference between Emma and Knightley. In Austen’s novel, it’s different since men were often marrying much younger women, and also because women matured much earlier than today’s women. It’s an ick factor for me- an older man leching after a young woman. And I thought that to have him be older,
    just not that older would have achieved the same end.

    I very rarely skim a book, but I did with this one as I was borrowing my best friend’s copy and needed to read it quickly
    before I left her country. I’m glad I didn’t buy it. AMS actually lives in my city and I heard him talking about Emma at the Edinburgh Book Festival a year or two ago. He is much more entertaining in person, I find, than in his books. And yes, you’re right, the publishers did have an idea for a marketing ploy and picked their authors.

    Northanger Abbey, I read first and it was also just okay. I thought McDermid did a good job updating it for the most part, but what was thrilling was that it was set for the first half in Edinburgh, during the Festival. And it talked about sitting in Charlotte Square at the Book Festival, and there I was, sat in Charlotte Square last summer reading this book during the festival! It’s always great fun to read about where you live. But apart from that, I wouldn’t have recommended it. Perhaps a young teen would be a better audience? McDermid (who is gay) also raised the gay theme and dismissed it. (SPOILER ALERT) Instead of General Tilney mistaking Catherine for being rich, he is told Catherine is gay and courting his daughter, not his son. So he throws her out. And if it had been set up better earlier, it would have worked, but it wasn’t and it was a bit random since so much of the rest of the book copied Austen’s original so closely.

    I enjoyed your retelling of the retelling of Esther, a story I have read from the Bible a few times but was still fun to hear repeated in your modern tongue.

    For another retelling of a classic, which -when you began mentioning The Lost Books of the Odyssey – I thought you were
    about to mention this book – Song of Achilles. I recently read it and loved it. It tells the story of the amazing love between Achilles and Patroclus. Of course we all know Achilles dies, but that was all I could remember of my Greek mythology, and there was this foreboding throughout the whole book.

    I shall explore more episodes back in time.
    Thanks for sharing your love and excitement of books.