Since reading ‘Jane Eyre’ and going to the theatre this weekend to see ‘Wicked!’ once again, which ties in more with Thursday’s post, I have had adaptations on the brain. In fact since I have put Jane Eyre’ down I have actually been itching to start it all over again, however with a rather large TBR and long lists to re-read and book group choices to fit in I cant really justify an instant re-read. I shall simply have to make do with knowing I have a joyful re-reading to look forward to in a year or so. I do have the BBC adaptation on DVD though…

However can an adaptation, be it a TV series, play or film, ever really do the original justice? My mind instantly falls to the amazing and epic BBC version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ staring Colin Firth which I introduced The Converted One too a few weeks back and we both thoroughly enjoyed.

The irony of that choice by me as a great adaptation is of course that I have never read P&P so how would I know if it was a good version or not? I do have friends who are complete P&P lovers (see Rose Roberts for one) who say it is an exemplary adaptation. I will read it one day and find out I swear I will. I loved ‘Bleak House’ as well when that was on, haven’t read that either, but do we have to have read the book to say if an adaptation is good or not?

Any TV show can appeal just because the directing, acting, production etc, etc is so good (the same with a play or a film of course) or because it has one of your favourite actors in it so of course this can apply to an adaptation. Some may say the best adaptations come because the stories are so good but I think we could all think of a few adaptations which a quarter or half way through we have had to turn off or run from the theatre/auditorium screaming. Ok, maybe not screaming – you get my drift.

I myself need to have read something first, well if I know it has come from a book that is for sometimes we don’t. I did actually ask on twitter if ‘Downton Abbey’ (which is a marvellous new period drama starring Dame Maggie Smith we have here in the UK) was originally a book, it seems not its something wholly original and new though having watched the first episode I do wish there was a book. Some people can never be pleased can they? Anyway as I need to read things before I see them (on the whole) I have started ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro after seeing the trailer for the film which looks very good even if Keira ‘Pout = Acting’ Knightley is in it.

I have also lined up ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks as it has not long opened as a play in London and its something I really, really want to see and I book I have been meaning to read for absolutely ages and ages. Everyone I know who has read it has loved it and said that they think I would too. Do any of you have opinions on that as a book choice for my future reading?

So which is my favourite adaptation? Well for me it would have to be Hitchcock’s version of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’. It could actually have gone horribly wrong for me as it is my favourite book, however Hitchcock did it superbly, and I think he and Du Maurier had an affinity on this particular project I have to say. My worst? Well, that would be the recent film of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ actually I didn’t think anyone except from Mrs Bennett  could act in it, and that horrid final scene at Chatsworth Pemberley after the wedding on the terrace almost made me reach for a sick bag.

So which adaptations do you love and loathe? Do you think an adaptation can only truly be judged or enjoyed by those who have read the book? Are there any adaptations you are eagerly awaiting? Which books do you hope never get adapted? Have you seen any adaptations that were better than the books (such as ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ for example – ha)?


Filed under Book Thoughts

20 responses to “Adaptations

  1. gaskella

    I love all the costume drama series the BBC does. P&P was near perfect – and Colin Firth as Darcy still makes me weak at the knees. Brideshead Revisited is another landmark TV series that I never tire of seeing – the films of both are not a patch on the series not withstanding the Knightley pout, they just can’t fit the full story in.

    I’m jealous you’ve seen Wicked twice! I’m desperate to go but may have to wait until next summer as my daughter and I already have two musical literary adaptations in the pipeline – Matilda (Roald Dahl, good film BTW) at the RSC, and then the Wizard of Oz at the Palladium for spring half-term. Can’t wait.

  2. The BBC P&P is excellent. Among many things, it succeeds in visualising items that are hardly described or even mentioned in the book, like clothing, or the way people danced.

  3. I generally like to read a book before I watch an adaptation of it but sometimes thats not possible or I don’t realise the film I’m watching is an adaptation to begin with. Wanting to read the book first is just personal taste though because I find that if an adaptation is a good one then it can stand alone from the book so it shouldn’t affect your viewing pleasure.

    I’m also watching Downtown Abbey, loving it! But yeah it is a new piece of writing by the Oscar winning Julian Fellowes which was one of the draws for me…that and of course the great Dame Maggie Smith 🙂

  4. I watched Children of Men on TV last night, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how good an adaptation it was..but as a film I thought it good (well its got Clive Owen in almost every scene, enough said)

    I loved Possession the novel, but was slightly disappointed with the film, it was saved by the period bits.

    One of my favourites has to be Howard’s End, loved the book and film, and Legend, loved the book and film (even though the film was based very loosely on the book, it did have Will Smith in almost every scene…I’ll shut up now!

  5. I loved the book Never let me go and am really looking forward to the film, I actually think that Keira Knightly is a good choice for the character Ruth. I saw the film of the girl with the dragon tattoo and while I thought it was very entertining I have no desire now to read the book.

  6. Oh man, I love Wicked and am jealous you got to see it again – though THAT is a good example of a terrible adaptation 🙂 That being said, once I got over the shock, I love it, just not as much as the book. I have nothing to add as haven’t seen hardly any movies… I do have Birdsong (book) though so am interested to hear that people love it.

  7. teadevotee

    Am a huge fan of ‘The Remains of the Day’ (book and film) so have high hopes for ‘Never Let Me Go’ – hopefully the presence of Carey Mulligan will compensate for the presence of Keira!
    But I agree with Tracey – Possession was a massive let down. And Bleak House on the Beeb was far, far better than the book.

  8. BBC adaptations don’t usually go far wrong – my favourite Austen adaptation is the recent one of Emma with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller – I loved it!

    Anything with Keira Knightley in I can’t stand. Stop pouting in my face! I hated the Dr Zhivago one years ago with her in. Really ruined it for me. And the Pride and Prejudice film. She’s all teeth and gushiness. I can’t bear it!

  9. Ahhhhhhhhhh you’re watching Downton Abbey too! Sorry but there’s only my mum to discuss it with so far, no one else seems to have seen it. What do you think? I am in total love! It’s written by a novelist if that’s any help, Julian Fellowes who created Gosford Park (falls into a melted puddle of love over that film).

    This is one of my favourite bookish topics ever, because I love tv and film – although I find myself much more critical of them than I can be of books. I am afraid of The Never Let Me go adaptation because the book is so good (I think I almost cried) and like you I’m not a Keira Knightley fan (I had to restore myself with BBC P&P box set after her awful attempt at Elizabeth). But Carey Mulligan is in the title role not her – haha miss I only have three expressions.

    I’m one of those people who didn’t like Birdsong, but I haven’t had much success with Faulks other novels. I imagine it would make a lovely film. As for the worst adaptation it’s so hard to choose – Fantastic Mr Fox maybe, or The Golden Compass (it made Philip Pullman make sad, yet restrained comments in the Times). Best – he,he cheesy to say Twilight right? I can think of lots of adaptations I loved, but haven’t read the book of yet (Clueless, recent ITV Persuasion, Jude the Obscure, BBC Tess of the D’urbervilles) but am drawing a blank on great ones where I read the book first. Oh how Baz Luhreman’s version of Romeo and Juliet – fab and crazy.

    • Oh no wait of course I’ve read Persuasion. I’ll change my answer to that (along with P&P of course). And I agree Howards End is a.mazing with Jeremy Irons and the book is like eating caramel. I wonder how How to Train Your Dragon compares with the kids books, because that is one great film…

  10. I’m another big fan of the BBC’s P&P. It was perfect! I think it’s best to watch adaptations after leaving some time between finishing the book as it’s often a let-down (just because there will be changes.) I think I saw the adaptation of Sarah Waters’ ‘Affinity’ too soon after reading the book and couldn’t really appreciate it.

    I also watched ‘Downton Abbey’ which I thought was brilliant. But then I’m a big fan of ‘Gosford Park’ which was also written by Fellowes.

  11. I’d have to say that the movie version of Children of Men packed more punch than the book did, but the book is still excellent.

    One book I hate that turned out to be a terrific movie is American Psycho. Not for the faint of heart, but an excellent satire. Oddly, the book felt like an exploitation flick while the movie had something to say.

  12. The “Colin Firth version” of P&P I found very much a true adaptation. I don’t think Darcy went swimming in the book, but that can be overlooked because it’s obvious why it was included. I’ll be wanting to watch the Jane Eyre you’ve detailed once I’ve finished the book.

    An adaptation can be enjoyed and judged by someone who hasn’t read the book, but in the case of judging only to an extent (unless of course it’s judging for a different reason).

  13. Bet

    I could write a book about this topic– where do I begin?

    First, I will say that I don’t think you have to have read a book to enjoy an adaptation. I’ve come to think that a film can stand on it’s own and I realize that sometimes plot changes have to be made to make the film work. I have often seen an adaptation before I read the book and I don’t think it makes much difference, except in the case of a very convoluted plot. There have been some films in which I thought “If I hadn’t read the book, I would have no idea what’s going on right now.” I’m sorry I can’t think of an example at the moment.

    Some of my favorite adaptations are: The English Patient; Sense and Sensibility (the Emma Thompson version); Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth, of course); Persuasion (the older one with Ciaran Hinds); Remains of the Day; Howard’s End; Children of Men; Our Mutual Friend; Adam Bede; Cranford (though it’s taken from several different books); Wives and Daughters; North and South; The Way We Live Now… I could go on and on! Most of these are BBC productions that I’ve seen on Masterpiece Theater over here.

  14. Future adaptations????

    This will open the doors to Murakami adaptations (probably not all of them) but it won’t be the last.

    @Tracey Children of Men is a good example where the movie beats the book. The novel is a baggy monster, but the movie has been whittled down into pure allegory (and it works).

    Zizek (as in the philosopher) puts it up there with the best …

  15. AAAHHH I frick’n LOVE that BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre! I’m a big fan of the book, which I first read when I was 10, and I’ve seen the old Timothy Dalton BBC mini-series (which was very brown!) and a movie version, but this one, with Toby Stephens, is exemplary. When I first got the DVD, I watched it every night for a week! Okay maybe longer – it was just SO GOOD! 😀

    Regarding P&P, I tell people, “Read the book, then watch the BBC mini-series because it’s so close to the book, then watch the Keira Knightly movie” (I know, pouting and all!) because you don’t always have 6+ hours to watch the mini-series and it is I think an excellent adaptation in its own right. I find that, for movies especially, adaptations work best if they’re not complete copies of the book – otherwise, what’s the point? The very word, “adaptation”, means adapted to a different medium – if it’s the book verbatim, a la the first two Harry Potter films, it’s boring and slow – they’re such different formats, after all!

    I’ve seen the movie, Never Let Me Go – posted about it here. I absolutely loved the book, which I read without knowing ANYTHING about it and I think that’s the way you have to approach it if you want to give it a fair go – so in my review I refused to discuss the plot! I think it worked too; people would read it based on my level of enthusiasm and afterwards agree that not knowing what it was about was the best approach. It’s a sad story, and a heavy, tragic film, but definitely worth seeing. They did a great job of it.

  16. So pleased to see I’m not the only Keira dispiser out there! Why do I want to crackerpunch her jaw into place everytime she comes on screen?! I am dying to see ‘Never Let Me Go.’ I LOVED ‘Rebecca’ as well and it was right after I finished reading the novel. So perfectly done.

    And for future prospects of books not made into film yet? I’d have to say ‘Shadow of the Wind’ could be an absolutely amazing film. Someone like Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Guillermo Del Toro should be responsible! Gaahh! I’m getting all excited already!

  17. I try and seperate adaptations from the books and just enjoy them for what they are. ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day’ is a perfectly enjoyable film that isn’t a patch on the book and which if I thought about it would annoy me no end. I’m looking forward to ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ but can’t imagine it’ll get close to the book…

  18. I think I judge adaptations by different standards. For instance, I think that ‘Chocolat’ is a fun film to watch and is well-made, but it’s an awful film if you look at it solely as an adaptation of the book. I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for!

    I do generally like an adaptation to stay close to the spirit of the novel, if not the letter. Obviously things are going to change just by having it in a different medium, but it just needs to have the right ‘feel’. Although I admit that sometimes things wind me up for reasons of pure pedantry 🙂

    But I do definitely think that the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice is an excellent adaptation (with the exception of Mr and Mrs Bennett), and somebody else has also mentioned Sense & Sensibility, which is definitely a winner also. Bleak House was just amazing both as an adaptation and as a TV series. I now have an urge to get it on DVD and rewatch it all! Not P&P so much, as I’ve seen it a million times already…

    I don’t think you need to have read the book first, but I generally like to, because I find it easier to read the book and have my own mental picture and then go to the film, than take a ready-made mental image from a film and then go and read the book, as it’s so hard to rid yourself of the film/TV images! A friend of mine once watched Gone With The Wind and then read the whole book just waiting for the famous line only for it never to come up. Now that’s the kind of thing that makes me sad.

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