Cyrano

Geraldine McCaughrean

Oxford University Press

019272603X

January 2006

Cyrano de Bergerac and his cousin Roxane are a couple of literature’s most frustrated lovers. Fifteen years after the death of Roxane’s late husband, Christian de Neuvillette, their relationship remains constrained by his memory.
Cyrano explains how the pair ended up in this situation. It’s the story of how Roxane was seduced by Christian’s words both written and spoken and how de Bergerac wrote those enticing entreaties to win the heart of the woman he loved for another.
Add in Cyrano’s embarrassment about his rather prominent protuberance, dashing heroism and a sneaky rival in the shape of the Comte de Guiche and all the elements are in place for a classic historical romance.
This is not a tale that has hidden its light under a bushel. Movies in the shape of Cyrano, staring G’rard Depardieu, and Roxanne, Steve Martin, have brought this story to life in traditional and updated environments.
Geraldine McCaughrean’s version is based on the original play by Edmond Rostand and opts for the traditional setting of seventeenth France. It has all the lyrical richness that the tale demands, Cyrano’s swagger is admirably conveyed, Christian is suitably eager and dumb.
The machinations of the Comte provide a darker background for some of the more pantomime moments and everything floats along effortlessly.
It is also book that opens up the debate about the merits of retelling a classic tale: is such a work more valuable than the more ‘full-on’ challenge of inventing your own characters, setting and plot? Is it merely a buswoman’s holiday for McCaughrean?
The marketing team at Oxford University Press won’t care about such writerly concerns, however. They will simply be delighted with the January publication date.
After all, any young beau who wants to convince the object of his affections that he is in touch with his sensitive side on Valentine’s day will find this volume far more effective than a box of chocolates.

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