Literary New Year’s resolutions from the OUP Team

As the end of 2017 draws near and we look towards a new year with varying degrees of optimism, it’s time to consider our New Year’s resolutions.

In the OUP office, we have eschewed the usual resolutions involving eating and drinking less and exercising more, in the hope of having a higher level of success (and continue to indulge in regular sugar-laden morning and afternoon teas) with our literary New Year’s resolutions.

Below is the list of novels that we resolve to read in 2018, and some books that we think are perfect beach reads for the summer break. No scales or Fitbits involved!

Angela Glindemann, Sales and Marketing Coordinator

This year I want to read:

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien – This insightful author spoke at the Adelaide Writers’ Week this year, and I’ve been keen to read this book ever since. From what I’ve read, it combines a story of familial roots with the broader history of China in the twentieth century, and sounds like a fascinating read.

My favourite holiday read is:

The Town by Shaun Prescott – This is a delightful book for those who count existential thoughts as a holiday activity. It will make you question who we are and where we’re going, in an unsettling and uniquely Australian way. It’s not really a beach read, although there is a beach in The Town.

Marta, Marketing Coordinator, Schools Division

This year I want to read:

Extinctions by Josephine Wilson – the story sounds really interesting, about an older man needing to choose between his life-long possessions and his family.

The Sea by John Banville – this book won the 2005 Man Booker Prize.

The Silent Companions: A ghost story by Laura Purcell – I’ve always loved a bit of a ghost story and this one sounded interesting.

Sugar Money by Jane Harris – a story set in 1765 about slaves and their mission to smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – I stumbled on this book while searching for another Jennifer Egan book. The reviews were very positive and I discovered that this book was the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan – the newest release by Jennifer Egan. Once I knew Jennifer Egan was a Pulitzer Prize winner, I didn’t hesitate to add this to my wish list.

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley – the story is based around a family farm and the hard choices that need to be made by the family.

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott – written by a National Book Award-winning author and the book was shortlisted for the 2017 Kirkus Prize. This novel is about three generations of an Irish immigrant family in 1940s and 1950s Brooklyn.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – this book won the 2017 Man Booker Prize. It’s about Abraham Lincoln dealing with the death of his 11-year-old son.

My favourite beach reads are:

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Fleur, Marketing and Communications Advisor

This year I want to read:

The Dry by Jane Harper – this book has attracted so much positive attention, and I love the way that Harper was so honest when she was asked about how the book came about, saying that she approached it like any project: educating herself, planning and finally, writing the book. It was a practical approach to the reality of writing.

The Choke by Sophie Laguna – this is another book that has been raved about on social media, so I’d like to see what the fuss is about. I’m steeling myself for a confronting read, but I enjoy it when a book makes a big impact.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris – I’ve always wanted to read a book by Sedaris, and I picked this one up second hand, so this is my chance.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell – A colleague mentioned they were enjoying this memoir detailing O’Farrell’s numerous brushes with death, and I think it sounds like an interesting concepts. I don’t usually choose memoirs, but this one seems to be a bit different.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – I read Strout’s Olive Kitteridge this year and loved how it was so grim, but also insightful and touching, and Anything is Possible one has attracted equally positive reviews.

My  favourite beach reads are:

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – it allows the reader to enter a different world, and become part of an Indian family, with all of the complexities that involves. It’s an easy but immersive read, perfect for the beach.

Commonwealth by Anne Patchett – this is another story about family, but a different one. Commonwealth details the life of a complicated family that is broken apart, then put together in a different way. It regularly takes the reader to sunny days at the beach, that echo a childhood and sense of long summer days familiar to many Australians.

Nami Thompson, Sales and Administration Support

This year I want to read:

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – For 2018 I would like to read George R. R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series to fill the void left by Games of Thrones as the final season won’t premiere until 2019.

My favourite beach read is:

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris –  t’s a hilarious collection of illustrated fables for adults.

Emma Magill, Publishing and Editorial Manager

My favourite beach read is:

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – I have recommended this book to everyone and anyone who will listen! It is warm, funny and full of heart. It cleverly manages to be an easy, absorbing read while exploring complex social issues such as immigration and the global financial crisis.

Alex Chambers, Editorial Coordinator, Higher Education

This year I want to read:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (which everyone keeps raving about)

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (before the film comes out)

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (which I hope can make me smarter)

My favourite beach read is:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this for my book club this year and it’s a winner.

Valerie Stoelen, Editor: Secondary

This year I want to read:

Mythos by Steven Fry – because … Greek myths + Steven Fry

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – because … the beautiful special edition hardcover

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – because … it is still in the bestseller list and I have almost bought it so many times

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard – because … (the next book in the Red Queen series) teenagers with superpowers + monarchy

Jordan Irving, Editorial Coordinator

This year I want to read:

These are all the books I have on reserve at the library which aren’t expect to arrive until 2018!

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

My favourite holiday read is:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

The Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Frances O’Brien, editor

This year I want to read:

Zanzibar Wife by Deborah Rodriguez – I want to read the Zanzibar Wife by Deborah Rodriguez. I read The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul  a few years ago and really enjoyed it so I am looking forward to seeing what her new book is like.

Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich – I am also looking forward to reading Janet Evanovich’s new book Hardcore Twenty-Four, I absolutely love the Stephanie Plum novels and always devour them.

What are you planning to read during the summer break and in 2018?

Super Happy Magic Forest: a review


Super Happy Magic Forest Cover Spread

This month we are anticipating the release of an exciting and epic adventure in the Super Happy Magic Forest. To celebrate this super happy magic release,  Stephanie, age 6, reviewed the book and told us about her favourite characters.
SMHF Review_Stephanie6_Page_1_cropped

  1. What score would you give this book out of 5?
    1 = throw it away
    2 = it was ok
    3 = I might read it again if bored
    4 = I liked it a lot
    5 = it’s awesome and I want to read it again 
  2. Who was your favourite character?
    Trevor and denise*.
  3. Why were they your favourite?
    I like trevor because he is funny. I like Denise* because she is pretty.
  4. Can you draw a picture of your favourite character? SMHF Review_Stephanie6_Page_2_croppedSMHF Review_Stephanie6_Page_3_cropped
  5. What was your favourite part of the story?
    When oldoak gets put in a place where evryone there is evil it is a fair place for him.
  6. Do you have a favourite illustration?
    I liked the SUPER CREEPY haunted forest because when I look at it, it makes me feel brave.SMHF Review_Stephanie6_Page_4_cropped
  7. Is there a part of the story you don’t like?
  8. Would you like to read another epic adventure with these characters?

*Denise is called Dennis in the book.

9780192742957Super Happy Magic Forest

Victorian Fairy Tales


This newly published anthology contains 14 imaginative tales are full of whimsy, fantastical happenings, dark happenings and, of course, sometimes even fairies. Many are by authors who you would not necessarily associate with fairy tales; John Ruskin, Rudyard Kipling, William Makepeace Thackeray all have stories included in this anthology. Adding to the charm of the tales are reproductions of some of the original illustrations, by some of the greatest figures of Victorian art such as Richard Doyle, Ford Madox Ford, Arthur Hughes and Walter Crane (whose beautiful wallpaper design, ‘Swan, Rush, Iris’ adorns the book cover).

This is a lovely book to dip in and out of but it also caters to those who want to know more about the Victorian literary marketplace and chronology of fairy tales; the anthology includes historically informed explanatory notes, biographies of the authors, a chronology of Victorian fairy tales and extracts from some of the authors’ musings on the nature of fairy tale and its importance.

Victorian Fairy Tales
Edited by Michael Newton

Michael Newton

Source: Universiteit Leiden

About the editor: Michael Newton has taught at University College London, Princeton University, and Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, and now works at Leiden University. He is the author of Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children (Faber, 2002), Age of Assassins: A History of Conspiracy and Political Violence, 1865-1981 (Faber, 2012) and a book on Kind Hearts and Coronets for the BFI Film Classics series. He has edited Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son for Oxford World’s Classics, and The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories and Conrad’s The Secret Agent for Penguin. He has written and reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, the New Statesman, and The Guardian.

Related blog post: Marina Warner’s Once Upon A Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale

Which classic have you always wanted to read?

To celebrate the launch of a new reading group, the Oxford World’s Classics team asked staff in Oxford offices around the world – which Oxford World’s Classic have you always wanted to read?

And it got us talking here in the office; were we prepared to answer that question? Were any of us prepared to admit to NOT reading certain ‘classics’?! Here are our answers:

9780199535729“I’ve always wanted to read Moby Dick and my interest was renewed again recently when I read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (which references this classic).”
Sascha, Editorial, Primary Education

9780199535675“Definitely Ulysses by James Joyce. It seems great but the prospect of reading it scares me!”
Alex, Publishing, Higher Education

9780199219766Great Expectations (or anything by Dickens). I just feel like this is one of the classics you are supposed to have read during your lifetime but it keeps managing to slip
down my ‘to-read’ list each year!”
Stephanie, Marketing, Higher Education

9780199232765“Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. This was sold to me as a must read, a “master of fiction” – 1,400 pages and lots of Russian names have deterred me so far, but this is on the bucket list!”
Ann, Sales Operations

Don-Quixote-Cervantes-9780199537891“I would love to finish Don Quixote but I never seem to be able to get into the right headspace. Shall aim to finally finish more than 20 pages in 2015…”
Jessica, Compliance

9780199672066“Sherlock Holmes stories. Arthur Conan Doyle created such a fascinating character that has spawned many enthralling adaptations (Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation is my fav!). I feel I owe it to the author to read his original creation.
Amanda, Editorial, Secondary Education

9780199536498“I hesitate to incriminate myself but I have still not read Pamela by Samuel Richardson, even though I studied his novels during my English Literature degree!”
Nicola, Marketing Operations

9780199541898Find out more about the Oxford World’s Classics reading group, and the title of the first book under discussion, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

What’s in a name? Charles Dickens born on this day

charles-dickens-imageCharles Dickens was born on 7 February in 1812. Author of more than a dozen novels, many short stories, plays and non-fiction pieces, Dickens is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. He was also active as a social critic and used his novels to highlight injustices and inequities suffered by the poor.

T.S.Eliot wrote that: “Charles Dickens excelled in character; in the creation of characters of greater intensity than human beings.” This is shown in the characters who have passed into popular usage as epithets; who hasn’t referred to a miserly friend as a ‘scrooge’?! And others may call someone obsessed with facts and statistics as a ‘gradgrind’.

Charles Dickens had an amazing faculty for creating character names that conjured up entire personalities in just a few words. According to Dickens’ biographer, John Foster, “…[Dickens made his] characters real existences, not by describing them but by letting them describe themselves.” He created over 650 characters for his novels, naming each one with thought and care.

Dickens particularly excelled in inventing names for his villains; using dissonant, awkward-sounding syllables to create names that readers would stumble on and instinctively react negatively to, that would require a performer to hiss or sneer them when read aloud to an audience. Uriah Heep, Wackford Squeers, Daniel Quilp are all names that are so distinctive, so implicitly unpleasant, it’s difficult not to judge them. Of course, it’s not just the villainous names that are memorable to readers of his novels: Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, Charles Darnay, Little Nell, Oliver Twist – all are instantly recognised as Dickens characters.

If Dickens was writing about you today, what would your character name be? Would you seen as a hero or a villain? Why not use the Charles Dickens name generator from namenerds and find out?! Apparently I would be Totty Squilcomb, which I think puts me in the hero, or at least likeable, camp; I love it and may now only answer to this name…

Written by Totty Squilcomb (aka Nicola Weideling, OUP ANZ Marketing Operations Manager)

To purchase copies of any of the Oxford World’s Classics Charles Dickens’ novels go to our website.



Is one of your new year resolutions to read more literary classics in 2015?

If your resolution is to read more classics this year, or maybe just to read more widely or more often, then check out our list of suggestions below. We have matched literary classics with popular modern genres to inspire your 2015 reading list.

If you like folk tales and myths, try:

9780199538362Myths from Mesopotamia, Stephanie Dalley
The ancient civilization of Mesopotamia thrived between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates over 4,000 years ago. The myths collected here, originally written in cuneiform on clay tablets, include parallels with the biblical stories of the Creation and the Flood, and the famous Epic of Gilgamesh, the tale of a man of great strength, whose heroic quest for immortality is dashed through one moment of weakness.

 9780199218783The Mabinogion, Anonymous
Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, and an intriguing interpretation of British history – these are just some of the themes embraced by the anonymous authors of the eleven tales that make up the Welsh medieval masterpiece known as The Mabinogion.

If you like detective stories, try:

9780199536726The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (1868)
According to T.S.Eliot, The Moonstone is ‘the first and greatest of English detective novels’. The bemused butler, the love-stricken housemaid, the enigmatic detective, the drug-addicted scientist; each take their turn to speculate on the mystery of the missing diamond as Collins weaves their narratives into a masterpiece of construction and suspense.

9780199554775A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle (1888)
A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes and Watson are immediately in fine form as Holmes plucks the solution to the mystery from the heart of Victorian London.

If you like tales of suspense, try:

9780199539222The Romance of the Forest, Ann Radcliffe (1791)
A novel of mystery and suspense in the Gothic style, The Romance of the Forest was considered by contemporary critics to be Radcliffe’s finest novel, although her novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, is probably better known.

9780198704447The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole (1764)
The Castle of Otranto is the first supernatural English novel and one of the most influential works of Gothic fiction. Chilling coincidences, ghostly visitations, arcane revelations, and violent combat combine in a heady mix that terrified the novel’s first readers.

9780199536177The Turn of the Screw, Henry James (1898)
The Turn of the Screw is probably the most famous, certainly the most eerily equivocal, of all ghostly tales. Is it a subtle, self-conscious exploration of the haunted house of Victorian culture, filled with echoes of sexual and social unease? Or is it simply,`the most hopelessly evil story that we have ever read’?

If you like family dramas, try:

9780199577033Lady Audley’s Secret, M.E.Braddon (1862)
When beautiful young Lucy Graham accepts the hand of Sir Michael Audley, her fortune and her future look secure. But Lady Audley’s past is shrouded in mystery, and to Sir Michael’s nephew Robert, she is not all that she seems. When his good friend George Talboys suddenly disappears, Robert is determined to find him, and to unearth the truth. Can Robert’s darkest suspicions really be true?

9780199549894The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy (1922)
The three novels which make up The Forsyte Saga chronicle the ebbing social power of the commercial upper-middle class Forsyte family between 1886 and 1920. Galsworthy’s masterly narrative examines not only their fortunes but also the wider developments within society, particularly the changing position of women.

If you like spy fiction, try:

9780199537877The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan (1915)
The best-known of Buchan’s thrillers, The Thirty-Nine Steps has been continuously in print since first publication and has been filmed three times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935.

9780199549719The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers (1903)
Like much contemporary British spy fiction, The Riddle of the Sands reflects the long suspicious years leading up to the First World War. The intricacy of the book’s conception and its lucid detail make it a classic of its genre.

If you like stories of the sea, try:

9780199554836Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling (1897)
Captains Courageous deals with a boy who like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, is thrown into an entirely alien environment. The superstitious, magical world of the sea and the tough, orderly, physical world of the boat form a backdrop to Harvey’s regeneration. Kipling describes the fascination skills of the schooner fishermen who would soon be made redundant by the twentieth century, and makes the ship function as a convincing model for a society engaged in a difficult and dangerous task.

9780199536023Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad (1900)
Lord Jim tells the story of a young, idealistic Englishman – ‘as unflinching as a hero in a book’ – who is disgraced by a single act of cowardice while serving as an officer on the Patna, a merchant-ship sailing from an Eastern port.

OWC-avatar_400x400The Oxford World’s Classics (OWC) series offers more than 750 titles fiction and non-fiction titles; taken from British, Irish, European, American, and Eastern Literature as well as covering topics such as Philosophy, History and Science. For a complete list of titles, go to our OWC website page. To find out more about the series, watch the video below or follow OWC on Twitter or on Facebook.


What’s the best beer style for summer?

After water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink in the world. This should not be surprising, as beer is also one of the most complex and varied of drinks. It can taste like lemons or smoke, coffee or coconuts, bananas or bread, chilies or ginger. Beer can be crisply acidic and earthy, or it can be bracingly bitter and spectacularly aromatic. Whatever style you prefer, this list of easy-drinking beer varieties will keep you refreshed all summer long. Find more great candidates for a perfect summer brew referenced in The Oxford Companion to Beer.

  1. India pale ale (IPA) is a beer style characterised by high levels of alcohol and hops. It gained its name thanks to its huge popularity in British India and other outposts of the British Empire throughout the 19th century, a result of its keeping abilities on long sea voyages and its refreshing character when it finally reached its destination.
  2. radlermass (translated: “cyclist’s liter”; “mass” is an old Bavarian word for “liter”) is a mixed beer based drink with a long history in German-speaking regions. It consists of a 50/50 mixture of various types of beer and German-style clear lemonade. Radlermass is the Bravarian equivalent of the British shandy (which is also a mixture of beer and lemonade, or, less often, ginger beer). During summer months, radler is very popular because of its reputation for being a perfect thirst-quencher – a result of its harmony in sweet-bitter and sour taste.
  3. pilsner (or pilsener or pils) is a pale, golden lager, originally from the Czech Republic. It revolutionised the brewing world when it first appeared, thanks to its seductive golden glow and crisp, refreshing taste. And thanks to an oversight that meant neither the name nor the recipe was patented, it was quickly imitated around the world. Today, for most beer drinkers, pilsner is simply synonymous with lager.
  4. saisons, generally speaking, are exceptionally dry, highly carbonated, and fruity ales of average to moderate alcohol strength. Saison ales can be traced to farmhouse breweries where the practical goals in brewing Saisons were threefold: to refresh the seasonal workers in summer, to make work for the full-time farm workers during the winter, and to produce spent grain, which is served as quality feed for the livestock in the winter. Beer was therefore brewed in one season, winter, to be drunk in another, summer.
  5. berliner weisse is a beer style originating from the region around Berlin, Germany, which developed gradually from the 17th to the 20th Its main characteristic is a mild sourness and tartness with a light and fruity character, which led to the nickname “Champagne of the North”.

Do you have a favourite summertime beer? Let us know by posting a comment below.

Oxford Companion, Beer, father's day, gift for dadThe Oxford Companion to Beer is the most comprehensive reference book ever published on the subject of the world’s most popular and diverse fermented beverage. Brewmaster and author Garrett Oliver has collected the vast knowledge and research of more than 165 beer experts from more than twenty countries.

Take to the road with Mr Toad!

Alyce Crosbie, Sales & Marketing Coordinator, reviews The Adventures of Mr Toad by Tom Moorhouse.

adventures-of-mr-toadIt’s great when classic tales are brought to life for modern-day audiences. The Adventures of Mr Toad, as retold by Tom Moorhouse, is a picture book retelling of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows from Toad’s point of view. Now younger readers get to join Mr Toad on his adventures, driving motorcars and escaping prison! Of course, Toad is accompanied by his old friends Mole, Ratty and Badger:

  1. Mole – the sweet one.
  2. Ratty – the jolly one.
  3. Badger – the slightly scary one.
  4. Toad – the brave, talented, clever one.

When Mr Toad’s new obsession with cars lands him in prison for theft, he manages to escape in disguise only to find stoats and weasels have taken over his home Toad Hall! Toad and his friends must come up with a plan to reclaim Toad Hall. Children of all ages will love following this fast-paced adventure and can sing-along with Toad throughout the journey, joining as he clears his throat with a ‘ahem’ (or a ‘sniff’ when he is feeling sorry for himself):

I’m the magnificent, wise Mr Toad,
the finest of drivers around on the road.
My goggles and gloves make me look rather dashing.
But I’m never quite sure why my cars keep on…

Paired with beautiful colour illustrations by David Roberts, this story will captivate young readers and keep them on the edge of their seats. Though Toad is easily distracted (and more than a little boastful), you can’t help but be charmed by him and know he essentially means well. The perfect book for reading aloud as a family, The Adventures of Mr Toad has a great message at its heart about being brave, standing up for yourself and looking out for your friends. It is a tale of friendship, adventure and laughter, and the perfect way to introduce the story and characters to young children before they move on to The Wind in the Willows.

Tom-MoorhouseTom Moorhouse lives in Oxford, where he enjoys the refreshing and perpetual rain. He is somewhere in his mid-thirties. This, he has discovered, means that small white hairs now grow out of his earlobes when he’s not looking. He spends a lot of time climbing rocks. He used to play the trombone, but doesn’t any more. He is, without the slightest fear of contradiction, the world’s worst snowboarder. Ever. Tom also happens to be an ecologist, working at the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology. As a child he devoured – not literally – just about any fantasy book going.

david-robertsDavid Roberts was born in Liverpool. He always loved drawing from an early age and couldn’t wait to escape high school and go to art college. There he developed a keen interest in pottery and fashion and went on to study a degree in fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University. After university he worked as a milliner and began to get work as a fashion illustrator, but always felt his true calling was in children’s book illustration.


Once upon a time: a short history of fairy tale

Nicola Weideling, Marketing Operations Manager, reviews Once Upon a Time: A short history of fairy tale by Marina Warner

9780198718659Fairy tales are woven into the fabric of our childhood. Either being read to us or reading them to ourselves, the stories enchant us as children and stay with us as adults. Little Red Riding Hood, the dog with eyes as big as saucers, Baba Yaga, Ali Baba, Prince Charming – all instantly recognizable characters.

In Once Upon a Time, Warner covers the origin of the fairy tale, how the stories were shaped over the years and why, and what they represent today. Writing thematically rather than chronologically, Warner uses popular characters, motifs and plot devices from fairy tales to explore their social, cultural and political influence, as well as the changing linguistic, psychoanalytic and feminist interpretations over the years. Each of the ten chapters can stand alone as a short essay, which makes it a great book to dip in and out of.

As well as covering the well-known Grimm, Anderson and Perrault collections, Warner also introduces us to lesser-known fairy tale ‘collectors’ and eastern fairy tales, not just tales from the western canon. What I found particularly interesting in Once Upon a Time was Warner’s chapter covering the emphasis on the oral tradition within fairy tales. She highlights the importance of speech and rhyme and the power of words in fairy tales: words open doors, reveal true princes, cast spells, break spells.

Fairy tales can be subverted, they aren’t static. They are reinvented and reinterpreted to suit the collectors’ views e.g. Grimm changed mothers to stepmothers, when interpreting the folk stories, believing that mothers should not be portrayed harming their children. The Victorians made them overtly moral and removed the sexual overtones. Modern authors, who want to tell them from a different ‘angle’, to give the victims a voice, have also reclaimed fairy tales. One of my favourite examples of this approach is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.

Even if we no longer believe in fairies, the fairy tale tropes are used time and time again in our modern films and novels; as Warner tells us, we still need the ‘heroic optimism’. Fairy tales continue to inspire: Disney’s endless production of animated films e.g. ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’; Phillip Pullman recently published retelling of 50 Grimm tales and Jack Zipes’ new translation of the original Grimm tales which puts the ‘blood and horror’ back into them.

Erudite, well-researched, and the distillation of years of research into a handy little book, this is a fascinating read and I love the decision to print as a small hardback, it feels like a storybook! General readers with a love of fairy tales, as well as students of English literature and literary studies will enjoy this. And I guarantee that you will be inspired to go back to read their favourite fairy tales from childhood – I know I have been!

Marina WarnerMarina Warner is a writer, historian, cultural critic, and novelist; Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford

Are pictures really worth a thousand words?

In this post Alex Mellas, Higher Education Sales & Marketing, talks about the book versus film debate – is one better than the other?

9780192739308The Box Trolls film was released in cinemas in September alongside the novelisation movie-tie in (OUP, 2014); this beautifully animated film produced by Laika Studios (Coraline and Paranorman) was inspired by the novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow (OUP, 2005). Having read the original novel before watching The Boxtrolls, I found myself missing Arthur and his friends from Here Be Monsters, but also enjoying following a new adventure with Eggs and Winnie that was playing out on screen. This experience made me think about other book-to-film adaptations I had seen and whether I had enjoyed the film more than the book or vice versa.

Ask any bibliophile and they will always say ‘the book was better’ after seeing a film adaptation. Why are we so loyal to our paper friends?

They changed my favourite…[character/plot device/setting]!
Whether the Director has forgotten our favourite characters, changed the love interests or skipped vital plot points, the film never manages to stick to the story we’ve grown to love. While not all movies are a letdown (the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice is the perfect adaptation), we are never able to relive our reading experience on the big screen and can be left disappointed that the film is not a replication of the book.

That’s not how I pictured it!
A book offers us the chance to let our imagination run wild; when a director takes that book and makes it into a movie it can feel as if they are setting a restraint on our imagination. Will you ever be able to picture Jay Gatsby without Leonardo DiCaprio now? You can always pick the readers in a cinema; they’re complaining about the eye colour, clothing styles or the number of spots on the hero’s childhood dog. We are used to thinking of these characters in a certain way and movies stunt our imagination, forcing us to accept someone else’s perception.

Films are ‘books lite’
When you read a book you can take your time and enjoy it at your leisure, you can return to favourite passages but you can’t do that with a film (of course, you can if watching the DVD!). You have roughly 90 minutes to take in and understand the story and if you miss something you can’t flick back to check details. A book can offer more world building than you get in a film; while a film can make some things clearer but it can also gloss over important points or throw in unexpected plot twists because the film doesn’t have time to build up the story.

In conclusion, to enjoy both the book and film version of your favourite stories I think that it becomes necessary to think of the two mediums as completely unrelated entities – rather than going to see your favourite book screened as a film, think of your screen time as the opportunity to watch a new story.

What’s your view? Do you have a favourite book that was made into a film? Do you think it was a successful adaptation?