21 January, 2015

Book Adaptations

The BBC are getting excited over their upcoming television adaptation of the blockbuster books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Hilary Mantel became the first woman and first Brit to win the Booker Prize twice (2009 and 2012) for these historical novels, which seem to have done the impossible and both won prestigious awards and proved enormously popular with "ordinary" readers. But will you be watching it on screen?

I find watching big or small screen adaptations of novels a bit of a Catch-22 (which, by the way, I've never seen, only read). If I haven't read the book, I don't want to watch the film/programme because I don't want to ruin it. If I have read the book, I don't want to watch because I know what's going to happen! Does anybody else find this? 

In the end I usually pick one or the other - book or screenplay. For example, I'd been meaning to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for ages, but ended up watching the film instead. Now I have no interest in reading it. Similarly, I adored The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene, and therefore have no intention of seeing the film. On the other hand, I would never have read Philippa Gregory's book The White Queen, but the TV series was a good diversion for a few weeks.

There are exceptions. When the first of the Lord of the Rings films was released, I watched it with my mum. I loved it so much I read all the books straight away and still then enjoyed the other two films. I also spent much of my young childhood watching the BBC late-1980s/early-90s adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia, but still love to read the books for the subtlety and wit that CS Lewis gets into his writing. (I can also listen to almost endless repeats of Agatha Christie books on the radio!)

I've got plenty of books to read this year already, but should I make space for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies too? They sound scary - over 100 characters and most of the important ones appear to be called Thomas (the perils of writing about real historical figures!) - but they also sound amazing. What do you think? Do you read first or watch first? And will you be watching along this spring?

14 comments:

  1. I always read first and then watch afterwards. Something about that order makes it so much more fun for me :)

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    1. If you are going to do both, that's definitely the way round I would choose :)

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  2. I will watch the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall, but I was put off the book by reviews about the unusual and maybe difficult writing style. I read recently that it in a poll of readers it was the most 'unfinished' novel.

    Being a bear of little brain I like an orthodox, straightforward writing style.

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    1. Every book I mention you've been put off by reviews! But I understand it is a very marmite kind of book, and I agree with you - I prefer straightforward narratives. I think I'm going to plump for the TV series.

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  3. I'm still smarting about how different Chocolat was in the cinema, compared to the boo (enjoyable though they both were). I think it's best to treat adaptations as a different animal - a homage of sorts.

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    1. Oh sad. The book was so good. But I think that's a good point - they can't be the same thing, so it's best to be open-minded.

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  4. I prefer to read the book first, and I've put off some movies for that reason. But sometimes I'll see the movie without having read the book. That's more likely if I know I'll never get around to the book.

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    1. I'm the same. If I'm pretty sure I won't read the book any time soon, I'll like as not watch the film or TV programme. It's a good way to know what the fuss is about!

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  5. It's rare, but there's something very satisfying when you see the film adaptation of a book you've really enjoyed and they've actually got it right. A Scanner Darkly is one of my favourite books so I was cautious about seeing the film, but it's an excellent interpretation of the story. Jurassic Park is another good example (although there are changes in the film that don't make any sense).

    It can be strange reading the book after seeing the film version. I remember enjoying Out of Sight, and I got hold of a copy of the book soon after. Apart from one character being totally different in terms of ethnicity, which made a couple of the descriptions seem a bit weird, there was hardly anything altered between the two versions. It made the book seem oddly disappointing, although if I'd read it first I'd probably have been very impressed by how faithful the film version was!

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    1. I didn't know Jurassic Park was a book! Crazy.

      I can see why reading a book which is the same as a film you've just watched might be disappointing. I've had sort of the reverse with Wolf Hall. Decided to watch the first episode and didn't like it - much ot my surprise. It seems as if those people who've read the books like the show, those who haven't, don't. Which is interesting.

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    2. Oh just saw this before my other comment - interesting to see that people who didn't read the book didn't enjoy the first episode of it!

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  6. Funny - I did the EXACT same thing. Watched Perks of being a wallflower and read The Faults in our Stars. Loved The White Queen TV adaptation too.

    However, I watched the Hunger Games film for research (which I wasn't really interested in) and that made me read the rest of the trilogy. And recently watched The Maze Runner film which was so good that I've bought the second book!

    Everybody says how unusual and well written Wolf Hall is - so I think it's a better one to read. I wasn't overly impressed with the first episode so I think the book version in this case would be much better.

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    1. Snap again! Or at least I watched The Hunger Games without being interested in it. I haven't read the rest of the trilogy but I would totally consider it - I thought the premise of the story was brilliant.

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    2. The premise was what put me off (because I felt it was a bit stolen from another book/film). Bu the way she describes things are quite original and I was impressed by many parts of the books!

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