This is a list of books which I think have been successfully adapted into TV series or films. It will be a very short list. In general I have such high expectations after reading a book and such a clear picture of how it should be that it’s inevitable that the adaptation will disappoint.
The title of this post can actually work both ways. Having loved the Lord of the Rings films I decided to rethink my long held belief that I didn’t like fantasy books, apart from Harry Potter of course. This was mostly because the friend who was always telling me I should read Lord of the Rings was a particularly annoying and big headed friend and I refused to prove him right, but after 5 years I gave in and read it. And I should have read it sooner as I was right, I did not enjoy it. What the script writer did there was take a good editing hand to Lord of the Rings and vastly improve it. The characters became more likeable, the plot more followable and the conclusion more satisfactory. Same goes for Game of Thrones. I jumped on the bandwagon and binge watched the first two series and in my eagerness to know what would happen next embarked on the rather mammoth task of reading the books. And found them a bit of a chore. I still read all 4224 pages though. I’m incapable of leaving a book unfinished.
But back to the main point. Successful adaptations of beloved books.
1. Romeo and Juliet
I remember watching this film in English in about year 9 and finding it pretty ridiculous. But that was back when I thought I hated Shakespeare. Now I love Shakespeare and I love this film. Turns out I’m not in the majority as it has a pretty average score on IMDB (which is obviously the only way to tell if a film is good or not) but I do think its absurdity is what makes it amazing. How on earth did someone come up with the idea to make a film of Romeo and Juliet but set it in the ‘90s with the Capulets and Montagues two warring Mafia style families, dress the characters in Hawaiian shirts, give it a soundtrack of Radiohead BUT KEEP THE SHAKESPERIAN DIALECT? That is just plain genius. And it has Leonardo DiCaprio in it. Which never makes a film worse.
Great book, great film. Very little else to say. Actually I want to comment on how clever the way they changed the ending to make it work on screen rather than on page was. And that if I was as skinny as Keira Knightley I would wear nothing but that green silk dress for the rest of my life.
3. Pride and Prejudice
Not the 2005 film version with Matthew McFadden running across fields in his pyjamas. I found that one took rather too many liberties with the plot for my liking. I am a proponent of the 1995 BBC TV series. This may however be an unfair candidate for this list and perhaps should be disqualified as I did watch this series before I read the book. But I have since read the book lots and watch this series lots and I can still find very little to fault. My mum would disagree with me. She thinks Lizzy doesn’t come across as playful enough and Mrs Bennett is too screechy. She thinks the only version worth watching is the 1980 version with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. You know, the one so popular that when I tried to buy it her for Christmas the only way to do it was to import it from Holland, use google translate to navigate through the DVD menu and remember to turn off the Dutch subtitles before watching. But then she watched that one before reading the book. Which says a lot for the power of a TV adaptation to influence the way we interrupt books.
And that’s my list done. I really am a picky viewer.