I'm so excited to be a part of the blog tour for Speak Easy, Speak Love. I've wanted to read this book ever since I first learned about it. Not only is it historical fiction set in the 1920's but it involves bootleggers, speak easies, and all kinds of fun stuff from the era. But on top of that it's a Much Ado About Nothing retelling which involves a hate to love relationship and plenty of laughs. I love Shakespeare retellings and I'm excited for this one.
So... because of my enjoyment of Shakespear retellings, I had to ask the author about Shakespeare. So scroll down for McKelle George's response when I asked about Shakespeare's comedies but first a little bit about the book.
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Historical
Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.
Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.
Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.
I asked McKelle to tell us a little bit about the Shakespearean comedies because we tend to just learn about the tragedies and some of my favorite Shakespeare is the comedies. Here's what she said:
Okay, I’m going to try and keep this short and not turn this into a massive academic essay, but I actually have a lot to say about this. In high school, I hated Shakespeare: mostly because I couldn’t understand it. We studied Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello (all tragedies). It wasn’t until a, I was introduced to comedies, and b, I saw Shakespeare performed the way it’s meant to be, that I started to truly it.
Students tend to study the tragedies more because, as scholars and critics judge, the Bard’s most complex and beautiful writing appears in the tragedies. Likewise, people tend to adapt the tragedies more and retell them because there seems, at first glance, to be more substance: more emotional depth and realism to play around with.
But hear me out:
The tragedies are beautiful and complex and great, sure, but I believe some of Shakespeare’s most political writing is found in his comedies. In fact, several of the so-called comedies are billed as problem plays because while initially billed as such, there’s a lot of dark, psychological drama sprinkled into the laugh-out-loud funny.
Consider The Merchant of Venice and Taming of the Shrew. The first has an antisemitic premise (casting the Jewish Shylock as the villain), and the second is sexist (setting up Kate to be ultimately “tamed”),and yet, it is to Shylock that Shakespeare gives the humanizing and beautiful speech that contains the famous line, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” At the end of Shrew, when a beaten Kate addresses the women of the audience and says, “Come, come, you froward and unable worms,” it is chilling.
Both of these monologues are chilling and uncomfortable. It’s hard to know what Shakespeare intended because he famously gave very few stage direction, but it’s also hard not to think carefully and critically about what’s being said between the lines.
Shakespeare was no dummy. He was popular as his plays were being performed—often in front of nobility and the Queen—and anything too radical might have gotten him executed. Likewise, preaching didn’t do much good either. I like to think Shakespeare was entertaining people into change, weaving empathy and forward thought into the plays with jokes and marriage—not death and gore.
Much Ado About Nothing gets one of Shakespeare’s finest feminist characters in Beatrice. Beatrice is independent and smart, and even though she doesn’t want a husband,it’s for the sake of her own independence, not because she hates men (of whom she is gently teasing in the beginning of the play). Unlike Kate, Beatrice isn’t made to change who she is to be with Benedick, and unlike characters like Rosalind, she also doesn’t ditch her female friendships once a man comes along.
This is one of my favorite Beatrice’s moments:
With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest I love thee.
Why then, God forgive me!
What offence, sweet Beatrice?
You have stayed me in a happy hour. I was about to protest I loved you.
And do it with all thy heart. BEATRICE I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Come, bid me do anything for thee.
BEATRICE Kill Claudio. (4.1.293-303)
She’s like, I love you! Kill your best friend. Like, yeah fine I admit it, but that doesn’t change the situation, pal.
To me, the 1920s was a uniquely feminist decade and that was why I set Speak Easy, Speak Love in that setting . . . and then tried to make people laugh. Hopefully I succeeded.
• Pre-order swag including:
• 1 SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE bookmark
• 1 signed SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE bookplate
• 1 signed SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE postcard
• The full set of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE character cards •
Thanks everyone for stopping by