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A Reader of Fictions: O Mio Babbino Caro - Puccini

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, October 16, 2011

O Mio Babbino Caro - Puccini

Queens of All the Earth

Author: Hannah Sternberg
Pages: 126
ARC Acquired from: Bancroft Press via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
This novella, as I suppose the brief lengths makes it, is a modernist retelling of A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. The tale focuses on two sisters (as opposed to cousins in the original), one older (Miranda) and tightly-wound, one younger (Olivia) and breaking down, afraid at the impending loss of her childhood as she prepares to begin her freshman year of college. In deference to Olivia's mental state, the family decides to have her defer her acceptance to Cornell for a year, during which time she and Miranda take a week-long trip to Spain, where, in their hostel, they meet a cast of characters who greatly impact the girls' lives.

A Room with a View is my favorite movie of all time (to date at least) and one of my favorite books, so when I saw a book on NetGalley that was all about it, I knew that it had to be. Retellings can be quite a tricky business, because, while the author needs to do something original, they also need to stay true to the nature of the original story. Sternberg has done a good job here, although clearly much has been changed, particularly the time line and the additional focus on Miranda.

Sternberg decided to change all of the names, although some are quite similar. The story, however, can easily be compared to that of A Room with a View. Certain scenes are nearly exactly the same as those in the original, even though, all in all, the story takes a rather different trajectory and the soul searching is needed for entirely different reasons.

There were two huge changes from the original novel. 1) There was no Cecil. Everything gets wrapped up, to the degree that things are 'wrapped up' during the time frame of the trip, whereas in the original Lucy Honeychurch (now Olivia) goes home after her trip and tries to continue living as she used to, despite having been changed by her experiences in Italy (not Spain). 2) The character of Mr. Beebe is re-envisioned as Marc Castillo, a handsome young man preparing to take orders. Marc is in no way the same character as Mr. Beebe, although I cannot say why in deference to spoilers.

Overall, I definitely approve of what Sternberg has done here, even if I do miss some of the elements she cut and find her chapter titles a bit over the top. Ultimately, she keeps much of the spirit of the original, particularly in the characters of the Browns and Miranda (it's nice to see more depth into the Charlotte character). Lenny, too, is spot on for her counterpart, although I never did like her much. This is a brief, romantic story about two young women trying to find themselves in a beautiful, foreign landscape. Lovers of A Room with a View will likely appreciate this adaptation for its heart and obvious love for the original.

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