6 Modern Adaptations of Classic Novels

The classics are called classic for a reason: they’re stories that withstand the test of time. No matter whether they were written in the 18th century or the 20th, the scenarios still ring true—and there are plenty of authors taking those stories and reinventing them for today’s readers. Here are six adaptations of classic stories that you’ll fall in love with.

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
The most recently published of the adaptations on my list, Eligible is an update on Pride and Prejudice’s time-honored story of sisters who are struggling to find the right man amidst familial and socioeconomic tension. Lizzie and Jane live fully independent lives in New York City as a magazine writer and yoga teacher, respectively—but when their father falls ill, they go home to help and find that things are even worse than they expected. A treatise on the many plights, dating and otherwise, of millennial and modern women, this refreshing adaptation is an homage to the classic.

Re-Jane, by Patricia Park
This retelling of Jane Eyre is truly modern: Jane Re is a Korean-American orphan trying rise above her circumstances (living with a strict uncle and working in his grocery store) in Queens. When she becomes the au pair for a Brooklyn couple—Ed and Beth Mazer-Farley—and their adopted daughter, Jane thinks she’s hit the jackpot. In this version, the mysterious Bertha Mason is reincarnated as Ed’s very-much-alive wife, Beth—and when he and Jane start to have an affair, the consequences are more than she might be able to bear.

When You Were Mineby Rebecca Serle
Rebecca Serle’s modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet has an added twist: it’s from Rosaline’s point of view! Don’t remember Rosaline? Here’s a Shakespeare refresher: right before he meets Juliet, Romeo is pining for another girl, Rosaline, and she gets shafted the moment he and Juliet lock eyes. So, what did Rosaline think of Romeo and Juliet’s epic romance? In Serle’s novel, she and Rob (the new Romeo) have been best friends forever…and possibly something more…until he meets Juliet, Rosaline’s cousin, who used to be her BFF until she moved away. Rosaline must watch from the sidelines while Rob and Juliet’s love affair crashes and burns.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennettby Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
If you haven’t seen the Youtube web series this book is based on, get to a computer ASAP! It’s another Pride and Prejudice retelling, but with a slightly younger twist than Eligible. Lizzie Bennett is a grad student, saddled with debt, stuck living at home with her parents and two sisters. She thinks nothing of broadcasting the details of her mundane life to the few internet followers she has…but seemingly overnight, her vlogs go viral, making her and her sisters internet celebrities. Lizzie’s diary records the behind-the-scenes thoughts about her internet fame, the choices her sisters make…and one guy in particular, named William Darcy. We all know how that ends!

Boy, Snow, Birdby Helen Oyeyemi
The most literary of the books on this list, Boy, Snow, Bird is the most unique Snow White retelling I’ve ever read. In 1953, Boy Novak moves from New York to Massachusetts, looking for a new life. She marries a widower and by way of their marriage becomes stepmother to the beautiful and tempestuous Snow. Slowly, Boy finds herself becoming a wicked stepmother of fairytale lore, especially when her daughter, Bird, is born. Bird is dark-skinned, and Boy and her husband are exposed as light-skinned African Americans passing as white. A captivating examination of self-love, self-loathing, race, and gender in modern America, this is one fairytale you’ll never forget.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maquire
We’ve moved from the completely modern to the utterly fantastical, but how could I not include Wicked on this list? The classic story of The Wizard of Oz is told through the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West…who was not, as some would testify, born wicked. Elphaba was born a curious and magical girl, with the curse of green skin. As we follow Elphaba through childhood and off to university, where she befriends Glinda (the Good Witch, and her future enemy) and Fiyero, a prince of a faraway kingdom. The romance between Fiyero and Elphaba is a slow burn, but ultimately worth it as we learn that the events that unfolded between them may have led to Elphaba becoming as wicked as people remember her being.

What are your favorite modern adaptations of classic novels?

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