Review: Queens of All the Earth

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Queens of All the EarthQueens of All the Earth by Hannah Sternberg
Published by Bancroft Press on October 1, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 160
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

As her freshman classmates move into dorms at Cornell University, Olivia Somerset suffers a nervous breakdown. Big sister Miranda decides the sisters should fly off to Barcelona for some vacation therapy. When a mistake at their Barcelona hostel leaves the Somersets in a large co-ed dorm room, Olivia and Miranda are saved by kindly Mr. Brown and his son Greg. But while Olivia feels an instant connection with brooding Greg Brown, Miranda sides with fellow guest and cocky American travel writer Lenny: The Browns are just plain weird, and must be avoided at all costs. Inspired by E M Forster's classic novel A Room with a View, debut author Hannah Sternberg's Queens of All the Earth is a poetic journey of young love and self-awakening set against the beauty of Catalonia. Adults and teenagers alike will be riveted and moved by this literary coming-of-age novel about the conflicting hearts and minds of two very different sisters.

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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