Mar 10, 2010

Book Adaptations

Watching: Angel (catching up on my DVD goodness)
Listening to: Within Temptation
Making me smile: Being able to spend some quality time with my husband and cooking for my family.

The other night I was watching the Jennifer Byrnes Tuesday Book Club special event where they were discussing the adaption of books to movies. It got me thinking about the movies I've seen made from book and what I enjoy or hate about them.

At first, I was a purist. If the movie was different to the book then it was badly adapted. My husband explained to me that they are two different mediums and it was impossible for the two to be the same. You can’t put everything that’s in a book into a movie, it has to have the essence of the book distilled to make it to the screen. So I started to view the separate mediums as different things.

And today we have to red hot book adaptations in the form of TV programs. DEXTER and TRUE BLOOD.

DEXTER is our friendly neighbourhood serial killer based on the books of Jeff Lindsey. Now I have only read some of the first book and while the similarities are there, they are also different. But Dexter as a TV series is in no way disappointing because it doesn't follow the books - just the contrary. I think it has taken a life of its own and I'm looking forward to watching how the series unfolds and reading the books on a different level. I actually got the chance to see Jeff speak about Dexter and the TV adaption and he was very complimentary about the treatment of his character and the differences. He is also enjoying the series unfold.

The other popular TV adaption is TRUE BLOOD based on the popular Sookie Stackhouse SOUTHERN VAMPIRE SERIES by the talented Charlaine Harris. To me the series has a different feel - the first is roughly faithful to the first book. The characters are different to the book - I feel differently about them. I find Sookie rather annoying at times and Bill rather wet. But I do get a buzz that Sookie is played by a Kiwi, her brother Jason is played by an Aussie, Bill is a Brit and my favorite, Eric, is played by Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård, the talented son of actor Stellan Skarsgård. What international cast and what a great dynamic they have.

The list of my favourite adaptions are:

  1. Lord of the Flies - My goodness I loved that book - and the original black and white movie was one of the rare opportunities where everything I got from the book was in the movie.
  2. Jaws - I read the book after the movie and found both scary and enjoyable.
  3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy - the essence of the books were distilled into the movies. I had a few disappointments, but on the whole it was well done.
  4. The island of Dr. Moreau - totally different feel. I enjoyed the book - but I loved the total cheesiness of the movie - bad acting and all.
  5. The Princess Bride - love the movie and the book was just as enjoyable.
  6. My Fortunate Life - a classic in book form and movie/mini series form. Australian history at it best.
Movie that didn't work.
  1. Brokeback Mountain - big fan of Heath Ledger, but for me I couldn’t watch the movie. The short story was not exactly an enjoyable read but it was a great read (only my opinion). It was full of raw emotion and sometimes ugly insight. For me it isn't that it’s different, it’s because it lacked the something special that I go on the short story.
  2. I can't think of any more at 1 am - I am sure there are heaps.
So what are your favourite adoptions or your least favourite? What worked for you and what didn't?


  1. I agree about True Blood having a different vibe from the book. They really have sexed it up! Have only read the first 2 books of the books though for comparison.

    I loved the LOTR adaptations. On the whole the essence is there, despite not having the 10 million characters Tolkein names in the book :)

    I just recently watched Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief & there were definite changes - plot & to characters. Still I enjoyed it for what it was.

  2. great post!
    I'm going to seek out Stephen King's THE MIST to see if that movie reflected his writing *shudder*
    One that comes to mind is THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Shannon has the books, which I've yet to read. She likes the books a whole lot more than the tv series.
    So disappointed a movie deal (Warner?) fell through for one of my all time fav books, BITTEN by Kelley Armstrong.

  3. What a good topic, Tracie.

    I loved TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE and was relieved that the movie was good (not great but hey, it's a hard book to put into a movie). I watched the BOURNE movies first, went to the books and was surprised to find they are completely different. Sometimes I cannot bear to go to a movie of a book I've loved. I refused to see CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN because I couldn't stand the idea of Nick Cage doing an Italian accent!

  4. Hi Tracie
    I still remember the first time I saw a movie made from a book that I absolutely adored - and I was so outraged that they could just change things! It was Alistair Maclean's The Guns of Navarone. I had the consolation of watching Gregory Peck play the part of Keith Mallory so it wasn't all bad! :-p

    I enjoyed Robert Ludlum's Bourne Trilogy very much more as a movie than the books. I would go back to watch the movies again at some stage but I doubt whether I'd read the books again.

    I like the way they've made the Harry Potter movies too - I know things are cut but on the whole the productions seem to try to be faithful to the story and the characters.


  5. Adaptations that spring to mind for me are Bones (based on Kathy Reichs books) - I much prefer the books, too many changes to the characters in the TV series for me to enjoy it.

    In contrast is Midsommer Murders - I've only ever watched the BBC production (one of my faves) and never read the books because I've heard they are so different and I love the TV series too much to spoil it with the books (the first and only time I've let the show win over the book). Has anyone read one of the books? What do you think?

    Twilight - I still haven't decided, lol. I loved the books, and loved the movie - but watched it well after reading the book (only 2 weeks ago in fact) as I couldn't imagine the film doing the book justice. About to read the books again, so will make my mind up then.

  6. Like Sharon, I think Harry Potter has been done well. There are things I would have done differently in them, but I don't hate any of the decisions they made, and enjoy the movies as much as the books.

    Jane Austen movies are the ones I want to be the most faithful and am usually a bit disappointed the first time I see a new one. But I let it go and treat each one as an different version of the story. ;)