I bought this illustrated novel of Umberto Eco when I attended (and did a presentation at) the IRSCL (International Research Society for Children’s Literature) held at the University of Birmingham in 2015.
The Story of the Betrothed
Adapted by: Umberto Eco Illustrated by: Marco Lorenzetti Translated by: Stephen Sartarelli
Published by: Pushkin Children’s Books, 2014 (First published in 2010)
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
Our current reading theme has given me the perfect excuse to finally take this book out from my dusty bookshelves. Set in the early 1800s, the original version written by Alessandro Manzoni is said to be part of the required text in most secondary schools in Italy.
Umberto Eco’s adaptation made the narrative more accessible to a younger audience. The plot is pretty much your standard story: lovers not allowed to marry; bad guys hired by mean, wealthy people who are out to destroy the lovers’ happiness; cowardly priests and dastardly nuns who are unable to live up to their profession; and the triumph of the lowly and the poor with a little help from people who have had a change of heart.
The story has many twists and turns (with quite a number of characters to boot), but in the hands of a skilled storyteller such as Umberto Eco, the young reader can be invested enough in the story to want to read on. There is also a tongue-in-cheek, hugely entertaining vibe to the narrative that shows how Eco does not take himself seriously – while at the same time poking fun at the powers-that-be and the larger society in general with his witty commentaries. Readers are invited to read along for the rollickin’ ride because, hey, it’s fun!
When I bought this book, I didn’t realize that it was part of a series called Save the Story:
Save the Story is a library of favourite stories from around the world, retold for today’s children by some of the best contemporary writers. The stories they retell span cultures (from Ancient Greece to nineteenth-century Russia), time and genres (from comedy and romance to mythology and the realist novel), and they have inspired all manner of artists for many generations.
Save the Story is a mission in book form: saving great stories from oblivion by retelling them for a new, younger generation.
I was so impressed by this book that I ordered three more in the series. Watch out for my upcoming book hunting expedition posts to see what the titles are. Meanwhile, find this book, and have the unparalleled Umberto Eco tell this adapted Italian story to your young ones.