That's right, book worms: we love classic American and Brit Lit, too! Maybe you were an English major, or maybe you just loved a high school English class; either way, there's nothing like a 19th century novel to satisfy your craving for beautiful language and good, old-fashioned storytelling. Luckily for us, many 21st century writers are emulating some of their favorite material from the Romantic era in ways both subtle and shameless. Check out some of these titles along with their classic counterparts:
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese / Great Expectations
Verghese's story of twin boys born in Ethiopia and separated over their lifetimes by betrayal, war, and eventually an ocean - only to be brought back together in unexpected and dramatic fashion - is a gorgeous, modern-day tribute to Pip and the other lost boys of Dickens. Marion and Shiva Stone are bright and vulnerable boys raised by surgeons in the hospital where they were born. They lost their mother, their father abandoned them, their country threatens to fall apart, but somehow they scratch out their own destinies.
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett / Heart of Darkness
Perhaps one of the most worldly American writers today, Ann Patchett's novel of an Indian-American pharmacist sent to the Amazon in search of two lost colleagues and a lost wonder drug evokes a trippy and troubling South America along the lines of Conrad's Congo. Marina Singh travels into the jungle as she travels deeply into her subconscious, effectively losing her mind as she investigates why her colleague lost his life. Imperious and brilliant Dr. Swenson awaits Marina just like the elusive Kurtz.
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield / Jane Eyre
Herself a student of Romantic French literature, Setterfield's tale is classically gothic, and she doesn't shy from overt references to Bronte's Jane Eyre. A dying elderly author tells the story of her childhood, which revolves improbably around ghosts and mad people rambling in a decrepit English mansion overlooking the moors. A reclusive biographer records her story as she wonders after the ghosts in her own repressed experience. Somehow the feral Adeline March becomes the brilliant and successful writer Vida Winter - but not before a murder, a kidnapping, and a great house fire.
- March by Geraldine Brooks / Little Women
Brooks is a master at emulating nineteenth-century writing, and she makes it engaging and accessible as she fills in the holes of Alcott's Little Women. We know the struggles of Marmee, Jo and company as their dear father fights in the Civil War, but what about his story? As we follow Captain March away from his little women, we see the real racism and violence of the War Between the States, we meet Emerson and Thoreau, and we learn the history of his courtship with Marmee - as well as a close friendship with a beautiful, educated slave woman.
- Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey / A Tale of Two Cities
Carey's historical fiction is second-to-none, especially if you like complete immersion in the language and humor of his chosen period. Parrot and Olivier is a 21st-century take on Dickens's Tale of Two Cities: a French nobleman and a wandering English printer meet in England at the time of the French Revolution. Bound by European custom as master and servant, they travel (not without perilous and amusing incidents) to America, where the new Republic makes them reluctant and uncertain equals. Carey's prose is long-winded but witty - sure to win the hearts of Dickens fans.