“There is nothing new under the sun,” says the book of Ecclesiastes, and writers have been proving that point ever since. Chaucer recycled stories from Boccaccio. Shakespeare borrowed almost all his plots from others. And today’s writers sometimes marry classic tales with their own modern approach.
Here’s a list of upcoming novels that will give you a feeling of deja vu — but that’s not a problem. Some stories, after all, are worth telling again and again. Just don’t forget who told them first.
Old version: “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” by Patricia Highsmith (1955)
New version: “Tangerine,” by Christine Mangan (Ecco, March 27)
Graham Greene called Patricia Highsmith “the poet of apprehension.” Highsmith’s five Tom Ripley novels all involve the tension of apprehension, and it’s that tension that Christine Mangan uses to spookily similar effect in her new novel, “Tangerine.” It’s 1950s Morocco, and Alice Shipley never expected to see her Bennington College pal Lucy Mason again. But when Lucy shows up at the apartment, Alice can’t shake her off. And when Alice’s husband goes missing, she starts to wonder what’s really going on with her old friend.
Old version: “The Odyssey,” by Homer (8th century B.C.)
New version: “Circe,” by Madeline Miller (Little, Brown, April 10)
In 2012, Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles” brought new life to Homer’s “The Iliad,” in a retelling that focused on the relationship between warrior Achilles and his faithful Patroclus. In “Circe,” Miller weaves a story about the demigoddess with whom Odysseus tarried on his way home to Penelope. (Yes, she turned some of his men into pigs, but they deserved it.) A completely different novel from “The Song of Achilles,” “Circe” is a deep character study of how the daughter of the sun god, Helios, grew from a misunderstood child into an angry woman and finally a serene sage.
Old version: “Macbeth,” by William Shakespeare (1623)
New version: “Macbeth,” by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth, April 10)
Jo Nesbo, that Norwegian master of gory thrillers, is the latest author on deck for the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which acclaimed writers such as Margaret Atwood, Edward St. Aubyn and Anne Tyler adapt the Bard’s stories. His “Macbeth” takes place in 1970s Northern England, where a drug lord named Hecate (a stand-in for the three witches) defies both Police Chief Duncan and Inspector Macbeth. Meanwhile, Lady runs a casino hotel and Duff is Hecate’s crime rival. Think TV’s “Tin Star” crossed with a Val McDermid mystery — a dash of “Outlander,” too.
Old version: “The Maltese Falcon,” by Dashiell Hammett (1930)
New version: “Noir,” by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, April 17)
Just as he skewered science fiction in “Fluke” and gothic horror in “You Suck,” Christopher Moore gives us dizzy dames and shadowy gangsters in “Noir.” Sammy, Moore’s comic revision of Sam Spade, will take you on a silly-thrilly ride through late-1940s San Francisco, and you’ll be laughing all the way.
Old version: “Cinderella,” by Charles Perrault (1697)
New version: “All the Ever Afters,” by Danielle Teller (William Morrow, May 22)
We can’t resist the idea of a person raised from obscurity and ashes into royalty and glitter. But wait: The subtitle of Danielle Teller’s new novel is “The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother.” The game’s afoot! Agnes, as Teller names her protagonist, has quite a different tale from her little stepdaughter, Ella. Having escaped peasant obscurity, Agnes fights adversities that threaten to send her back to poverty. As in the best literary inversions (e.g., Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked”), Teller demonstrates the flaws and fine points of characters on both sides.
Old version: “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen (1813)
New version: “Mary B,” by Katherine J. Chen (Random House, July 24)
“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” whined Jan Brady, and no wonder: Middle children are too often overlooked in this world that prizes high-achieving eldest siblings and adorable babies. So, Katherine J. Chen gives middle-daughter Mary Bennet her own book, and if you didn’t recognize that name, well, that’s because everyone always pays attention to her sister Lizzie, who married Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s most popular novel, “Pride and Prejudice.” The best part about Mary’s star turn is that it bears little relation to the fates of her sisters. She’s a simmering, churning, smart woman determined to concoct an independent life.