Let me start with some background information: A few days ago, I learned about The Austen Project. Six bestselling authors are writing contemporary re-imaginings of Austen’s six completed novels. I’m really excited about this because I love Jane Austen and I’m a sucker for re-tellings. Especially when Pride and Prejudice is being re-worked by the wonderful Curtis Sittenfeld. Anywho, the first novel is coming out this month. It is a re-telling of Sense and Sensibility from Joanna Trollope.
Fast forward to today: I see on facebook that The Austen Project page has posted a link to an article titled “Children need classics not fantasy says Joanna Trollope.” Uh-oh. I know this will probably infuriate me, but I click on it anyway. I read the tagline, “Children are getting little moral guidance from fantasy novels like Twilight and should instead return to the classics, according to novelist Joanna Trollope.” She states that, “Although fantasy is a lovely escape, I am not sure it’s much help,” and that fantasy novels don’t relate to the real world.
The facebook post that lead me to this article said to “let us know your thoughts” so I commented: I’m really excited about The Austen Project, and I’m looking forward to reading Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility. However, it really bothers me when authors bash an entire genre of books… especially fantasy. She obviously doesn’t understand that although fantasy is not the real world, the themes and problems are very reflective of what is real. Fantasy isn’t just “an escape”. It’s a way for us to view our world through a different lens. As a child, I learned more about morals, empathy, and courage from books like The Neverending Story, Ella Enchanted, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe than I did from anything realistic. Children should read what they enjoy, and schools should teach a wide range of styles/ genres of books.
Awesome author Marcus Sedgwick also weighed in on Trollope’s views from his blog post, “Jane Austen, fantasy fiction and the morals of our children” where he stands up for fantasy and states, “Personally, I believe the main thing is that they’re reading, and enjoying what they’re reading, for that opens the doorway not only to the vast world of literature; it can also lead to the desire to embrace diversity, something Joanna Trollope seems unwilling to do.”
So readers, what are your thoughts? Are classics better for children than fantasy, or does Trollope have no validation for what she is saying?