Twelve Days of Christmas
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Yesterday Janet blogged about one of her favorite Christmas classics. I thought I’d follow-up, using one of my favorites to illustrate how a writer can take a well-loved piece of literature or music and use it as the basis for a new story.
I’ve always loved the old English carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, partly because I was born during the twelve days of Christmas. (Think: Goose.) Christmas marks the first day and the twelve days end on the Twelfth Night or the day before Epiphany.
I’ve been on a historical mystery kick for my fun reading. I mentioned previously on the blog that I’ve always loved the books of Anne Perry. One member of our blog community wrote to tell me that, since I was out of Perry reads, I needed to try Victoria Thompson. Perfect! I read through her backlist, and someone mentioned I needed to try Rhys Bowen. Perfect again. I just finished her book The Twelve Clues of Christmas. It was an absolute delight. (Highly recommend: Perfect fun read for this Christmas season.)
The main character in this series of books, Lady Georgianna Rannoch, is 34th in line for the throne. Her great-grandmother was the inimitable Queen Victoria, but the story is set in the Depression, and Georgie is, to put it bluntly, flat broke. Unable to stand another moment under the mercy of her penny-pinching sister-in-law at their dank family seat–Castle Rannoch in Scotland–Georgie answers an advertisement to help Lady Camilla Hawse-Gorzley host a house party in the quaint village of Tiddleton-Under-Lovey. Georgie soon discovers the house guests are actually paying guests gathered to celebrate an authentic English Christmas. Lady Hawse-Gorzley is also trying to find innovative means to keep a cumbersome estate running in economically challenging times. All goes well until Freddie Partridge is found dead, perched in one of trees in the Hawse-Gorzley pear orchard.
From there, the tongue-in-cheek whodunnit serves up a fresh murder each day while treating the reader to the most delicious descriptions of an English Christmas celebration, from the hunt to caroling, to the yule log and the puddings, boxing day and a host of other traditions. Rhys Bowen even ends the book with recipes, Christmas games and enough detailed descriptions of the Christmas trappings to satisfy the most ardent Anglophile.
Bowen brilliantly blends the old carol with her story to create that perfect fusion of something familiar with something brand new. Many writers are successfully doing that. Think of all the fairy tale retellings. The Jane Austen take-offs. West Side Story.
I thought it would be fun today to talk about other writers who took something old as the basis of creating something new. Can you name other books that did this? Why do these delight us? Do you think it’s easier or harder to use a classic as a starting point?
I’m out of the office the first part of this week–all-day meetings in Houston–so I may be joining the conversation a little late, but I look forward to hearing what you think.
Why do we love finding a new story based on an old favorite? Click to Tweet
Sometimes an old favorite can be the basis for a whole new story. Click to Tweet
Finding that new twist on an old favorite is fair game for novelists. Click to Tweet