I’m delighted to welcome H J Moat to Linda’s Book Bag today. Hollie’s book Other People’s Business is a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and what could be more intriguing to an ex-English teacher than to find out why she thinks Shakespeare is still relevant in today’s society. Hollie has kindly told me what she thinks in a lovely guest post.
Other People’s Business is available for purchase in e-book here.
Other People’s Business
Some cupid kills with arrows, some with traps…
Bee and Ben haven’t always hated each other, but they certainly hate each other now. They hate each other so much that it threatens to derail the wedding of their best friends, Imogen and Will.
But then something unthinkable happens and turns everything on its head. Within the wedding party, some hearts swell and others are broken, but will anyone work out that relationships are rarely quite what they seem?
This modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing explores the idea of whether we’re ever really in control of our own romantic destiny and if true love really can conquer all.
Why Shakespeare’s Still Got It
A Guest Post by H J Moat
When I decided to adapt Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing into a modern novel, I knew it would have no trouble settling in to the 21st century. England’s greatest ever playwright is as relevant today as he ever has been – throw a rock in any high street if you want proof, odds are whoever you hit will be able to reel off the fate of Romeo and Juliet. But in case launching missiles at strangers isn’t your sort of thing – here’s 5 more reasons why Shakespeare is always worth a read…
1.Nobody has ever bettered romance or violence
And all the best stories are essentially about love or war, even today. No one can do either one quite like W.S – let’s say I mention an anti-hero who murders his enemies and bakes them in a pie because they raped his daughter (and then cut off her tongue and hands to stop her telling anyone about it). You might assume I’d gotten a bit confused during an episode of Game Of Thrones. You’d be wrong: welcome to Titus Andronicus. And when it comes to romance, consider that even Hamlet, few people’s idea of a dreamboat, writes to Ophelia ‘Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.’ That was Shakespeare barely even trying to melt hearts….
2. He was an early feminist ally
Now I’m not suggesting Shakespeare and Roxane Gay would be BFFs, but certainly characters like Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing were way ahead of their time. Benedick is such a modern creation – a commitment-phobe yes, but one who respects women and treats them as his equals. He sees Beatrice as a worthy foil, and when Claudio accuses Hero of bedding someone else the night before their wedding, Benedick sides with Hero, who denies it. That he chooses does this when his boss, his best friend and even her father (not to mention society) immediately assume Claudio is right, make Benedick even more enticing as a love interest. Believe me, I know.
3.He foreshadowed things like revenge porn
Filming sex and uploading it to the internet may be relatively new but publicising a woman’s sex life and using it to humiliate her certainly isn’t. In Much Ado, Don John’s target of misery is Claudio, but it is only by publicly slut-shaming Hero (rather than say, doing anything at all to Claudio directly) he is able to create the chaos he craves. Even Shakespeare’s non-mortals aren’t above this tactic, as in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when in anger the fairy king Oberon drugs his estranged wife so that she gets off with a man-donkey hybrid. Okay, maybe not so relevant, that one…
4.His characters slot perfectly into our modern world
Shakespeare’s characters have been through more reinventions than Madonna. I recently saw a production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre with Sir Toby Belch as a drug-addled and ageing indie-rocker, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek as a preening hipster with no self-awareness and a man bun. So seamlessly did they slip into these 21st century stereotypes, I began to wonder whether Shoreditch (where Shakespeare’s first theatre was based) hadn’t actually changed in 400 years.
5.The film versions keep on coming
People keep on re-telling Shakespeare’s stories, and we keep on lapping them up – there is a new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the works as we speak. In 2015 Michael Fassbender made an obscenely handsome Macbeth. Baz Luhrmann turned an entire generation of teenage girls onto the Bard by casting Leonardo DiCaprio as a Hawaiian shirt- clad Romeo, though many preferred Heath Ledger in the 1999 modernisation of The Taming Of The Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You. But for me there is one adaptation that outshines them all, Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, where he and Emma Thompson play out the ultimate screwball romance and Keanu Reeves is a divisive, yet weirdly compelling Don John. I love it. I love it so much that I wrote a book.
About H J Moat
Previously a fashion and entertainment journalist, H J Moat is editor of the fashion website Farfetch. From an early ambition to own a petrol station, H J Moat has turned her love of Shakespeare into her debut novel, Other People’s Business.
You can follow H J Moat on Twitter.