When Melbourne based 18 YO Taylor, finds herself in 1928 Berlin, she tries to stop the world heading into the second world war.
In 2017 Taylor and her grandfather, are exploring an old building in East Berlin once known as The Hummingbird Theatre and Restaurant. Taylor is angry with her two closest friends and frustrated by being advised not to apply to tertiary dance institutes. When she wanders into an unrenovated section, hit by a falling cornice piece, she regains consciousness in 1928…
Rom Lewinsky, the Hummingbird’s junior manager, takes her home to his impoverished family. The only way Taylor can survive is by dishwashing, clearing tables, sharing a tiny room with dancer Juliet, and eventually joining her dance troupe. Rom and Juliet are in love, but Juliet’s stepfather, a member of the growing Fascist party, refuses to give Juliet permission to marry a Jew…
Goldie Alexander’s trilogy Shakespeare Now, gives a contemporary slant to three of Shakespeare’s plays, with which the characters in each novel are aligned. Each novel is a stand-alone read. The first, Changing History is adapted from Romeo and Juliet.
Eighteen year old Taylor travels to Berlin with her Opa, her grandfather, to improve her language skills while visiting the places he talks about. During a guided tour, she slips and hits her head. She regains consciousness to find herself in Berlin, 1928. Rescued by the Jewish boy Rom, she is taken to his friend’s house. Her handbag, identification and money are missing.
Stuck in old Berlin, who would believe she has arrived here through a time warp? She must find work at a time when the streets are filled with homeless people. Rom and his German girlfriend Juliet – star-crossed lovers with no hope of being together – help Taylor secure temporary lodging and a job.
Berlin life is a nesting place for artists and musicians, writers and freedom of every kind. Women are considered a commodity to be used and discarded. The rich are the only survivors in an unstable economy while the poor struggle on a daily basis. This experience changes Taylor’s perceptions and beliefs. Will she ever get back home?
Readers get an intimate and detailed view of Berlin – lifestyles, debauchery, anti-Semitism, and Hitler’s plans for Germany. Filled with an impressive amount of historical information, the story is told in a back and forth narrative that flows, regardless of time-shifts, from Berlin, 1928, to Melbourne, 2017. Teachers Notes are included with a précis of the original story in each novel.
Written in a complex but easily followed storyline, and set in a fantasy world of warring creatures and threats from amazing composite animals and the elements, that include the emotional turmoil of the characters, Alexander creates a riveting and imaginative read.
An intelligent, knowledgeable writer and former teacher of Shakespeare,
Goldie Alexander’s trilogy is presented with depth and credence. The trilogy also comes in an Anthology.
Changing History? in Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Claire Stuckey
In 2017 Taylor travels to Berlin with her grandfather Opa to visit the city that family fled in the 1920’s. Her future is currently unclear with her dancing a focus but is she good enough for it to be a career? She escapes an overbearing mother, and a boyfriend she wants to dump but only to fall into a desperate and dangerous situation.
Waking up in 1928, Taylor has a bad concussion and no money, but she is helped by a young man called Rom. Despite the hardship of his own Jewish family, he aids Taylor’s recovery, then assists in finding her a job and a place to stay. Taylor has never worked so hard, shared so little food, money or comfort. She makes friends and enemies while struggling to work at night eventually dancing with Juliet on stage to pay her way. Her friendship with Rom and Juliet educates her on the influences of religion and class in a society also struggling with political and cultural change in a dynamic economic environment. Their situation is difficult; both are restrained by family pressures, both are caring, but very much in love.
Taylor shares her time-travel secret with the couple who respond with much interest. Her revelations on the rise of the Nazi party and the consequences becomes a catalyst for a plan to poison Hitler on a visit to the restaurant where they work. The plan is foiled by an informer, Taylor does not escape the wrath of party officials. Saved once again, she lives rough on the streets until she returns to the present day, in hospital, with a terrible head injury. Taylor returns home with significant changes to her views on her life, family and her future. Opa finds a photo of his parents and Taylor realises that the family history is entwined with her own Berlin journey.
Although I knew much of the history surrounding this story, I enjoyed travelling with Taylor into this period. Unlike the original play, the young couple survive. As an historical story it provides a good entry point into German socialism and the religious intolerance in the pre-war period.
It may make Shakespeare more readable for students, but this story diverts markedly from the tragedy of the young lovers in the original. Highly readable, I did not try to look for the comparisons like I have in others stories in this series but enjoyed the time-travel adventure with well-drawn characters arranged in an dynamic setting.
Reviewed by Kate Constable
The indefatigable local author Goldie Alexander has produced three books based loosely on Shakespeare. I went to the launch and picked up this one, though I was strongly tempted to buy the anthology which contains all three volumes, including Gap Year Nanny (based on Macbeth) and The Trytth Chronicles, which transplants The Tempest to outer space!
Changing History? takes the eternal story of Romeo and Juliet to late 1920s Berlin. Eighteen year old Australian tourist Taylor is bopped on the head and time-slips from 2017 to 1928, where she finds a job at the Hummingbird nightclub, rubs shoulders with all kinds of louche Berlin types, and debates whether to share her knowledge of the future with her new friends, Jewish Rom and gentile Juliet, whose parents have forbidden them to marry. And when Taylor learns that a guy called Adolf Hitler is coming to town, she has a very big decision to make…
After lapping up the sumptuous series Babylon Berlin earlier this year, and now embarking on Ku’damm 56 (set in Berlin in the 1950s), I seem to be going through a Berlin phase. I especially enjoyed the period detail of Changing History? which cleverly drops plenty of historical information into the novel without overwhelming the human story. Taylor learns to appreciate her modern creature comforts, while picking up the political parallels with our own time. This book might even be more useful to students of modern history than those studying Shakespeare!
Reviewed by Jan Bottcher
Goldie Alexander’s ability to bring the past, present and future to life is realised in her latest astute retellings of popular Shakespeare plays that will captivate secondary school students.
This trilogy consists of:
‘The Trytth Chronicles’ – The Tempest
‘Gap Year Nanny’ – Macbeth
‘Changing History?’ – Romeo and Juliet
‘The Trytth Chronicles’ uses ‘The Tempest’ as a springboard for spine chilling adventures in space. Prospero, and his young daughter Miranda have been banished to a deserted space-ship where the aliens, Ariel and Caliban live. When Miranda and her cousin Ferdie meet they immediately fall in the love. But wicked Caliban, seeking revenge on Prospero, sends the lovers to the distant planet of Trytth and puts their life in danger.
‘Changing History?’ Dance student Taylor is thrust back in time into the Weimar Republic – a period of political turmoil, violence and economic hardship but also one of new social freedoms and vibrant artistic movements. The seedy Hummingbird restaurant and dancehall provides a gritty background as Taylor tries to help a couple in love, and prevent WW2 and the Holocaust from happening.
In ‘Gap Year Nanny’ the major characters are as unpleasant as in the original play! Ambitious Stuart Macbeth is persuaded by three internet gurus into destroying his opponents and finally himself. Merri’s account of his rise and fall and her interaction with the Macbeth family provides an interesting counterpoint to her own growing maturity.
The concept behind these novels is to demonstrate how classic characters and plots can be transformed into stories young adults will find intriguing by morphing them into contemporary settings. This is not unfamiliar territory as Goldie has already tackled the magical elements of ‘The Odyssey’ as a middle grade novel and a YA verse novel.
The Shakespeare Trilogy is a narrative introduction to the original plays with the intent that they become more accessible for students who find Shakespeare difficult. Students will be motivated to explore the plays and perhaps even write their own versions. Yet even without any previous knowledge of Shakespeare, these three novels provide enjoyable stories very suitable for YA readers.
Reviewed by Virginia Lowes
“Making Shakespeare accessible and relevant to today’s kids, who often groan about having to ‘do’ Shakespeare, Goldie has written thoroughly modern stories with the same theme and message. See her website for full details.
I especially loved the world of Trytth – the world Ariel came from originally. It’s another planet world – a bit like those invented by the late Ursula Le Guin, where the people and the world run on an arrangement like a hive, with everyone doing their jobs and no fighting. That’s the one about The Tempest and the first part takes place on a space ship which is Prospero and Miranda’s Island. (John, in proofreading, thought it was odd that the modes of transport [ship wreck/space ship] and the lands [the Island and the planet Trytth] didn’t represent each other) but it’s quite logical in the book, I assure you.)
The other two are equally engaging. If you are thinking of becoming a nanny for a while, read Gap Year Nanny and investigate Macbeth’s world translated into the corporate world of today – backstabbing thrives still. And Romeo and Juliet again battle with their families with disastrous results in Changing History? Of course, in pre-war Germany with Nazis on the rise, the ‘fault in their stars’ is that they are Jewish and Christian – how can they marry? How can they be safe?”
‘SHAKESPEARE NOW! A TRILOGY ’
This novel is also available as an Anthology which contains all three books.
Price for individual books: $ 15.26
Shakespeare Now: An Anthology: $ 31.46
Published 6th November 2018