Love the book, hate the movie?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel by [Shaffer, Mary Ann, Barrows, Annie]We’ve all been there, right? Loved the book, hated the movie, wondered why we bothered. And yet, we know they’re different media and the stories have to change.

Mr. Right and I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society  a few weeks ago. I’d read the book — by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows — shortly after it came out in 2008. The authors created such vivid images of London during the bombing that I felt I was there, even though I’ve never been to London, let alone seen my flat and everything in it, including my precious books, well, flattened. The epistolary — letter — format was a delight, allowing us to meet other characters and see the world, whether in London, Scotland, or Guernsey — as they saw it. Mr. Right doesn’t read much fiction and the story was new to him. The movie spends more time on Guernsey than in London, and we loved the scenery. A few characters disappeared or were combined, and the occupation of Juliet’s suitor changed, but on the whole, I felt the movie quite faithful to the book. Above all, it gave me the same feel as the book — a glimpse at strength and resilience in times of great turmoil, and the healing power of story. (And yes, it was fun to spot actors we’d seen in Downton Abbey.)

And it got me thinking about books made into movies. They’re different experiences, for sure. Some succeed better than others. A few I’ve loved:

Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak — Perhaps the best excised story, from a typically elaborate Russian novel, I’ve seen. So good that I can forgive director David Lean deviating from the first line. (“Yuri Zhivago was not a handsome man.”)

The Harry Potter movies — the books are so visual, and yet, the worlds so detailed and involved. Four different directors, and certainly the mood shifted, but that matched the shift in the books. Pretty much every BBC adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout on HBO — only a handful of the stories were filmed, and 2-3 combined, but oh, gosh, it worked. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin — Ellis is so interior, I couldn’t imagine how that could translate, but Soirse Ronan made me a believer.

What of the failures? I know there are many, but neither of us can think of adaptations we hated at the moment. You can, right? What book-to-movie adaptations have you loved or hated?



The Saturday Writing Quote

“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t. I’m not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own.”

–Julian Barnes (British writer and critic, b. 1946) Flaubert’s Parrot

Killer Characters — A Cozy Christmas giveaway

From November 26 through December 25, celebrate the holidays with the cozy characters at Killer Characters, where we’re giving away a book every day. Just leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for that day. On November 27, hear from Francesca “Fresca” Conti Murphy, mother of Erin Murphy, the star of my new series, The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, which debuts in August 2013 with Death al Dente.  Erin manages The Merc, a specialty regional food market in the Village of Jewel Bay, Montana — she’s got a passion for pasta, retail, and huckleberry chocolates, and an unexpected talent for investigating murder.

Leave a comment and you’ll have a chance at winning a copy of Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), the 2011 Agatha winner for Best Nonfiction.

Books for the writers on your list

Hannukah, Christmas, birthdays, Fourth of July–any chance to give a writer a book! Some of my favs:

Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (Harper Perennial, 2006) A lovely book.

Bryan Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3d Edition (Oxford, 2009) Garner takes on usage fearlessly, analyzing what changes are acceptable and what aren’t. He tackles common words and errors as well as more technical distinctions. Essays are interspersed with word entries, all highly readable. Word wonk heaven.

Donald Maass, The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great (Writers Digest, 2009) The title says it all.

Elizabeth Lyon Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore (Perigee, 2008) Lyon shows fiction writers how to think differently about their work. Terrific discussion of “inside-out” and “outside-in” revision, revising for genre, use of structure, and characterization.

Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (Univ. Of Nebraska Press, 2005) I read this on a 60 mile backpacking trip through the Bob Marshall Wilderness, but it’s great for the couch, too.

Mark Doty, The Art of Description: World into Word (Graywolf Press, 2010) A poet’s POV, from the Art of … series

Christina Katz, The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach (Writers Digest, 2011) What I’m asking for!

And don’t forget, Books, Crooks and Counselors!

What’s on your list?