Well you all know how much I love retellings, but funnily enough, Speak Easy Speak Love is a retelling I haven’t read the original of! Shame on me. I have never read Much Ado About Nothing, but I can tell you that I want to now! Speak Easy Speak Love is a heart-warming novel about love, bravery, and finding our own truths.
Beatrice has just been kicked out of boarding school, something that with good and bad news. Good news because she hated the ‘manners’ she was being taught, bad because she was kicked out only a term away from finishing her schooling and is now unable to finish, unless she can find another way to take her final exam. So where does she turn? To her uncle’s house on Long Island.
But it’s not just a dilapidated boarding house, it’s also a speakeasy. There’s nothing but bad luck for them, as their profits are dwindling and they are unsure whether they can keep afloat. Together the speakeasy draws all sorts of characters to it: Prince, the teenager trying to run the operations side, Hero, the enigmatic heir to the estate, Benedick, a privileged kid with dreams of being a writer, Maggie, a talented singer, and Beatrice. All of them together are in for the summer of their lives.
I am in awe of how clever the title is. It has the word speakeasy in the title! It just hit me after reading, but looking back I can only say that this is just the beginning to George’s wittiness and amazing writing. I normally talk a lot about the retelling aspect and the art of re-imagination, but since I haven’t read the original, that’s about all you’ll hear from me today. Suffice it to say, George’s writing is not only entertaining, but also has a masterful air to it. The way the plot unfolds and twists around, the comic and tragic mistakes the characters make, combine to produce an overall good hearted story.
Immersed in prohibition culture, the plot weaves us through these colorful estates and the multiple perspectives we see the world through, only enhance our understanding of the story. In a plot that takes us through the complexities of all of our heroes and heroines, it is downright brilliant the way it all comes together. And this brings me to my favorite aspect of the book – the characters. They just spring off the page, not only with their witty banter, of which there is plenty, but also with their vulnerabilities, their emotions, and their ambitions.
George manages to bring the characters to life before our eyes, worming their way into our hearts, and becoming our friends. I loved Beatrice’s honesty, Benedick’s ambition, John’s vulnerability, Maggie’s spirit, Hero’s gumption, and Prince’s compassion. And this is just the main cast, don’t get me started on everyone else! While I have my favorite, Beatrice (who could not pick a favorite), the competition is fierce for my heart and that says a lot about the caliber of a book.
We may begin with action, detailed characters, and illegal alcohol smuggling, but we end up with smiling tears, heart-warming scenes, and just an overall feeling of satisfaction. If you love prohibition historical fiction, an amazing cast of spirited women, Shakespeare retellings, or good old fashioned books of comic and tragic mistakes, this is the book for you. It’s a feel good, entertaining read, that will transport you from anywhere, and take you on an action packed adventure about love and the meaning of the family we create.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss.
What is your favorite Shakespeare play/retelling?
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