TV Adaptations I Watched Before Reading the Books

I don’t always attempt to read the books before watching their adaptations. That is true for films and TV series alike. TV adaptations have, in fact, introduced me not only to books that I loved and cherished, but also to ones that I hope to enjoy in the future. Occasionally, I watch adaptations that don’t arouse my interest in reading the books for a variety of reasons (Outlander, Poldark and Normal People are some examples). This post is, however, about the TV adaptations of books that I’ve now already read or that I still want to read!

 

The Luminaries

I’ve watched The Luminaries this summer. Although I didn’t love it, since it has too few episodes to become familiar with the characters, it left me eager to read the book by Eleanor Catton, which I’m hoping to enjoy much more. It is set in New Zealand in the 19th century and focuses on Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines.

 

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Before reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, I watched the BBC adaptation in 2015. A year later, I decided to pick up the book, since the story had fascinated me. Set in the 19th century, it’s an alternate history and fantasy novel about the restoration of English magic. Two practical magicians, who have very distinctive personalities, are commissioned to help win the war against Napoleon. Continue reading

Films I Watched Before Reading the Books

Many people favour reading the books before watching the film adaptations. I don’t have a strong preference. While sometimes I make sure to read the book beforehand, other times I just watch the film and then read (or not) the book afterwards. In fact, I discovered a couple of my favourite books thanks to their adaptations. There are at least four films that I watched before picking up the books.

 

Atonement

Directed by Joe Wright and released in 2007, Atonement was the film that introduced me to the work of Ian McEwan. I read the book (more precisely the Portuguese translation) shortly after watching the film at the cinema. Set in different time periods, the story starts in 1935, when Briony is rehearsing a play. She misunderstands the relationship between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, leading her to want to atone for her actions.

 

Pride and Prejudice

I also watched the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen before reading the book. I know that not everyone is a fan of this film, directed by Joe Wright, but I love it and have watched it many times, since a friend recommended it to me more than a decade ago. The plot is well known. Mrs Bennet is eager to marry her five daughters. Elizabeth, the second eldest, is intelligent, playful, witty and believes that she is a great reader of characters, although she sometimes judges people without knowing all the facts. One of them is Mr Darcy, who struggles to overcome his pride. Continue reading

Favourite Book-To-Film Adaptations: Pride and Prejudice

Being Portuguese, Jane Austen is not an author we hear about at school, despite having started to learn English when I was 10 years old. I was introduced to Jane Austen’s work by watching the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It is a British-American production directed by Joe Wright and staring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy.

The film is not altogether faithful to the book, as the story had to be compressed into a two-hours film. But, as I don’t mind when adaptations don’t stick to all book plot points, I love it nevertheless and still watch it once in a while. Although many people don’t seem like to like this film, it also got four nominations for the Oscars.

We first become acquainted with the Bennet family. Mr and Mrs Bennet have five daughters (Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia), hence their house is going to be inherited by their cousin, Mr Collins. Mrs Bennet is hilarious and openly shows her eagerness to marry off all her daughters. So, she becomes quite ecstatic, when she hears that wealthy bachelor Charles Bingley has recently moved into Netherfield, a nearby estate. He is introduced to society in a ball, which he attends accompanied by his sister and his friend Mr Darcy. While Mr Bingley becomes smitten by the shy Jane, Elizabeth instantly dislikes Mr Darcy. But first impressions are not always accurate. Continue reading

Favourite Book-To-TV Adaptations: Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes is an extremely popular British icon, so there are many film and TV adaptations of the works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve seen quite a few, but my favourite by far is the BBC television series created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Although it isn’t set in the 19th century but in the present day, it follows the same premise: Sherlock is a private detective who solves crimes with the aid of his friend and flatmate doctor John Watson.

To be perfectly honest, I’m cheating a bit by choosing Sherlock as one of my favourite book-to-TV adaptations, because I’ve only read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I’m not that familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. I didn’t even start my reading by the first Sherlock Holmes book, only realising that afterwards. However, I loved the TV series, mainly the first two seasons, and from the stories I’ve read I think they did a fantastic job at bringing Sherlock to the 21st century.

Sherlock is magnificently portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. He is not a perfect hero, not being affable, nice or friendly. He is direct, sharp and highly intelligent. Solving crimes is more than a profession, it’s an addiction. Despite his arrogance, as time passes he becomes far more likeable and human. Continue reading

Books I Would Like to See Adapted to Screen

I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that an increasing number of the films and TV series being released lately are adaptations of books. Although sometimes I wonder if that stems from a lack of new ideas, I think this adaptation frenzy can be a good thing, since more people may become interested in the books that were the source of inspiration and then starting to read more.

There are some books, which haven’t been adapted yet, that I feel have the potential to be either great films or TV Series. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan is one of them. It tells the story of Serena Frome who is recruited by the MI5 after graduating from the University of Cambridge in the early 1970’s. Her assignment is to select young writers with anti-communist views whom will be offered financial assistance. This spy story becomes more complex when love is added to the mix. Someone should hire Joe Wright to direct it, as he did a fantastic job with Atonement.

A book I also think could be turned into either a fantastic film or TV series is The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis in the original Portuguese) by José Saramago. This is one of my favourite books by a Portuguese author. The main character of this novel is Ricardo Reis, one of the many heteronyms created by Fernando Pessoa. Saramago transforms Ricardo Reis into a real person who returns to Lisbon after the death of his friend Fernando Pessoa. He discovers a Portugal living under the shadow of dictatorship. Continue reading

On Adaptations: Are the Books Always Better?

Whenever a new film or TV adaptation is announced, it isn’t difficult to find someone saying that the books are always better. That is a statement that I’ve never agreed with. The vast majority of the adaptations that I’ve watched, I enjoyed as much as the books. Some I even liked more than the books. Although it’s true that I believe that some adaptations may not do a book justice, this is far from the rule for me.

I really struggle to claim that a book is better than its adaptation, or vice versa, mainly because I would be comparing two completely different forms of entertainment, which require different ways of storytelling. What works fantastically on page may not work on screen. I tend to compare the enjoyment I had when reading the book or watching the film or TV adaptation instead of saying one is better than the other. The fact that I liked reading about a story more than watching it on screen doesn’t automatically make the adaptation a bad one.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad adaptations. If the adaptation completely misrepresents the feelings, the tone or the entire plot of the story to the point that it stops making sense, then it is not only a bad adaptation but also a bad film or TV show. I don’t expect all the plot points to be presented on screen in the exactly same way in which they were written. I don’t mind changes on adaptations at all, as long as they make sense in the context of the story being told, or they result in a more compelling story on screen. Continue reading

Favourite Book-To-Film Adaptations: Atonement

Atonement, first released in 2007, is one of those films that I could watch many times over the years without ever getting tired of it. Based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, it is one of my favourite book-to-film adaptations, managing to accurately translate onto the screen both the characters’ feelings and misinterpretations that are part of the plot of the book.

The story starts in 1935. Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old girl from a wealthy English family, has just finished writing a play and is trying to stage it with the help of her three visiting cousins – a teenage girl, Lola, and the youngest twin brothers. Since they get bored and decide to go swimming instead, Briony finds herself alone in the room and witnesses a moment of sexual tension between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a long-time servant. However, she misunderstands what she observes, leading to a gloomy outcome, which she passes the rest of her life trying to atone for.

Directed by Joe Wright, the film achieves to exceptionally convey important actions and details that make the story move forward. The difference between what really happened between Cecilia and Robbie near the house’s fountain and Briony’s erroneous interpretation is translated onto the screen through the shutting of a window. There is also the bee on the room, the wrong letter and the hair adornment falling on the floor close to the library. Continue reading

Favourite Book-to-TV Adaptations: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is one of the most talked-about TV shows of the last 10 years. If you’ve never heard of it, you’ve probably been living under a rock. But I will give you a short introduction before you have to leave so not to be spoiled. The first season premiered in 2011 and since then it has broken records in Emmy nominations and illegal downloads worldwide. It is an adaptation of the yet to be completed A Song of Ice and Fire book series by the American fantasy author George R.R. Martin. However, the latest season has outpaced the currently five published novels.

Both the novels and the TV show take place in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. Westeros was once divided into seven kingdoms, which are now nine regions, each one of them having a lord protector, member of a great House, who serves the king sitting on the Iron Throne. At the beginning of the books and the show, that king is Robert Baratheon, who won a rebellion against the Targaryens years prior the events taking place. The Targaryens are the family that had managed to unite the seven kingdoms hundreds of years before, mainly because they had… dragons!

After Robert’s Rebellion, the only two surviving Targaryens moved to Essos, remaining there in exile. One of the main strands of the story focuses on the siblings Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen, whose aim is to return home and take back their father’s throne. Meanwhile in Westeros, the great Houses are playing dangerous power games that leave various traces of turmoil. Throughout the first season and book, we become acquainted with Houses Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Greyjoy. But the number of Houses and characters keep on growing as the story progresses. Continue reading