Dueling Hesters: Two books that pick up where "The Scarlet Letter" leaves off

Sipping coffee from my favorite cup this morning. On the back it says "The scarlet letter was her passport to regions where other women dared not tread." These two authors dared. Deborah Noyes and Paula Reed take up the story of Hester and oops baby Pearl from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. (Click here for Kindle freebie of the classic.)

Deborah Noyes's 2006 debut novel, Angel and Apostle, got big critical love, including a PW review that ends: "Noyes engages with atmospheric charms of time and place...she delivers an ending revelation that would surprise Hawthorne himself." (Read an excerpt here.)

This month, romance novelist Paula Reed makes her hardcover historical fiction debut with Hester: The Missing Years of the The Scarlet Letter: A Novel. (Hey, nobody told me we're allowed more than one colon per title!) Reed is a high school English teacher, who works through The Scarlet Letter every year in class and says she always finds something new to love about the book. Quoth PW: "A few romantic trysts spice up the story and result in some un-Puritan-like scenarios...Reed has created an entertaining and unlikely sequel." (Here's an excerpt.)

Last week, Gordon Hauptfleisch at Blogcritics reviewed the two side by side, and Reed doesn't do too well in the comparison. (I suspect she'll be able to comfort herself with sales numbers that are likely to kick the other book's patootie.) Hauptfleisch is such a good writer himself, the item is fun to read, but it's redolent of genre bigotry, which doesn't leave room for the idea that these are two different literary perspectives from two different authors who dared to do what they do the way they do it.

Maybe it's too much coffee in the Hawthorne mug, but I'm thinking about a Pride/Prej/Zombies take on it, possibly titled "F#@kin' A!"...


Suzan Harden said…

P.S. Don't tell Colleen I'm now reading Mr. Darcy, Vampire.
Laughing my head off at that title, Joni! And yeah, I'd tar the reviewer with the genre bias brush see he just had to slap an author's work with the dreaded bodice-ripper label. Ugh.

And our Mr. Darcy, a vampire, Suzan? I guess the real question should be, with any of these efforts, does it stand on its own feet as a story?
Suzan Harden said…
I'll let you know, Colleen. I'm one of those weird people that has to read the entire book before I form an opinion.
Joni Rodgers said…
Hey, I love that kind of weird, Suzan. I think it's called "open-minded."
Joni Rodgers said…
That said, Deborah Noyes is a fantastic writer. She made a more than solid hardcover debut with A/A, and she's also done YA. More soon about her forthcoming novel, which I can't wait to read:
I give you a thumbs up for keeping your mind open, too, Suzan.
Tee hee. This whole conversation is cracking me up. :)

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