Tag Archives: The Great Gatsby

Top 10 Book Adaptations

I’m not much of a film buff, I haven’t watched everything on any ‘100 films to see before you die’ list, and I certainly don’t think anyone would describe my film choices as particularly cool, whatever that means. But, I do enjoy watching a good film from time to time, and I always look out for adaptations of books I’ve read, or books I’d like to read. There are always discussions about adaptations, and I find it interesting that they always divide opinion.

Are you a fan of Leonardo Dicaprio or Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby?

Are you a fan of Leo Dicaprio or Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby?

A perfect example of this is the reception of Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby which came out last summer (I loved it, but then I hadn’t seen the 1974 version starring Robert Redford as the inimitable Jay Gatsby).

I think there are often two main areas of discussion around a book adaptation:

1) How faithful it is to the book
2) How it compares to previous adaptations

On number 1, film directors always seem tempted to play with book adaptations, some striving to be as faithful as possible, or others being more adventurous with the format, such as Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet (which will always be my favourite adaptation of Shakespeare’s play), or 2012’s version of Anna Karenina by Joe Wright (which I also thought was brilliant).

Another example for point 2 would be Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you’ve seen the original adaptation, known as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, filmed in 1971 and starring Gene Wilder), then it may have been quite hard to warm to the more recent 2005 Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. It’s all a matter of which one you’ve seen first in some cases, as that’s the one you’ll come to associate most with the book. I’ve been thinking about book adaptations and wondering what my favourites have been, so I decided to come up with a list of my top 10 book adaptations on screen (in no particular order).

pride-and-prejudicePride and Prejudice
I loved both the BBC TV series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the 2005 film with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, as I particularly loved the actor chosen for Mr. Bingley. I only read Pride and Prejudice last year but I felt that I already knew the story inside out – it’s such a well-known story that it could probably be adapted into many different styles, in fact, the Bollywood version Bride and Prejudice was also good fun.

lord_of_the_rings_the_return_of_the_king_xlgThe Lord of the Rings trilogy
This trilogy will always remind me of those long student winter breaks, and watching the extended versions of the films over the course of a few days with my brother who is a big fan of both the films and the books. I haven’t read the trilogy (I think I’ve read just 100 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring), but the world that J.R.R Tolkien created is brought to life on screen by Peter Jackson and the detail in each of them is astonishing. I miss being able to see them on the big screen at the cinema. There may also be some truth in the allegation that my love of men with beards comes from watching these films. Ahem.

Harry Potter series
I loved the books, as most book lovers of my generation do. Yes, the first few films have some cringe-worthy acting in them, but I love them all the more for it. It’s so nice to see the characters (and the actors who play them) grow up on screen. Perfect films to watch on a rainy afternoon!

Harry-potter-films

Still from the 2002 TV movie of Doctor Zhivago

Still from the 2002 TV movie of Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago
The version I love is probably not the same as others have seen (I’ve heard many people love the film version starring Omar Sharif). For me it’s a TV adaptation – I think it was an ITV adaptation (starring Keira Knightley in her younger years) that came free with a newspaper many moons ago. I love the story, and it will forever remind me of winter in my old flat as I watched it whilst wrapping Christmas presents and making cards with my Christmas tree twinkling beside me. I haven’t read the book yet but it’s on my list – it’s such a beautiful story and the setting is wonderful which is why I think I fell in love with it. I’d be interested to watch the Omar Sharif film and see how it compares.

pp32424-audrey-hepburn-breakfast-at-tiffanys-posterBreakfast at Tiffany’s
I caught the last hour of this film on TV recently ago and it reminded me of just how much I love it, particularly Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of the ‘genuine phoney’ Holly Golightly. I did enjoy Truman Capote’s novella, but in this case I think the film is far superior. A classic!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

The Hunger Games trilogy
I thought the books in this trilogy were brilliant, I read them furiously, spending about a day over each of them. I remember finding it really hard to write book reviews for them as I couldn’t find a way to express how much I’d enjoyed them and was just finding my feet with blogging at that stage. I think Jennifer Lawrence is pretty great as well and look forward to anything she’s in. I have recently rewatched the first film as I hadn’t loved it the first time round – I felt it had been dumbed down (or made less harrowing) to appeal to a wider audience (aka making it a 12A so that kids would be able to see it and they could make more money at the box office). It’s much better on the second viewing, and the second film Catching Fire was far superior, although it seemed loads of details were missed out to get it within a reasonable time. I’m looking forward to seeing the final instalments which have been split into two parts, á la Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn from the Twilight series.

The film poster for Bright Young Things

The film poster for Bright Young Things

Bright Young Things
This is based on Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant satirical novel Vile Bodies – the film by Stephen Fry sticks pretty faithfully for it and it’s such a hilarious story. A glimpse of the young and pretty people in 1930s England, it’s as glamorous as the book is and really captures the whole feel of it. An example of an adaptation that sticks quite closely to the original story and works really, really well.

romeo_juliet_1996Romeo and Juliet
Do you remember the first time you studied a play by William Shakespeare in school? This was mine, and I remember watching this adaptation after studying it and appreciating for the first time how the play could come to life on screen and wasn’t solely fit for the stage. It’s a daring adaptation this, a modernised version, but it really works. It has the glamour and bright lights of all the best Baz Luhrman films – it’s magical, and is all the more heartbreaking for it.

Trainspotting
It doesn’t make for easy watching but it certainly packs a punch. It’s a powerful portrayal of the drug culture featured in Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same title and has brilliant performances from Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlisle – it’s one of those films that once you’ve seen it, you certainly won’t forget it. It’s an iconic film that really captures the ’90s so well.

trainspotting-poster

A Tale of Two Cities (1935 adaptation)
I remember using this book for teaching when I was working in Spain and fell in love with a black and white film adaptation which I think is probably the 1935 version. The entire film used to be available on youtube but I can only find the trailer now. If you can track it down it’s well worth a watch!

I’m hoping to watch the adaptation of Diane Setterfield’s gothic thriller The Thirteenth Tale at some point this week as I have it saved on the iPlayer. I loved the book and I’m hoping the film will live up to it! What are your favourite adaptations? And which book adaptations are you looking forward to this year?

Here’s what I’m looking forward to this year:

the-book-thief-poster-books-burningThe Book Thief (UK release on 14/02/14)
Book Review | Film trailer

Under the Skin (UK release on 14/03/14)
Book Review | Film trailer

Gone Girl (UK release on 03/10/14)
Book Review

Mockingjay: Part 1
(UK release on 21/11/14)
Film info

6 Comments

Filed under Literary musings

Book Club Read: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman

The UK cover of Tigers in Red Weather

The UK cover of Tigers in Red Weather

I think I first heard of Liza Klaussman’s Tigers in Red Weather last year, when Klaussman was at the Edinburgh book festival and this was up for Anobii’s First Book Award. It immediately caught my eye – first of all, the cover is stunning. It already seems like an iconic book cover to me, and after reading the book I think it strikes the mood just perfectly. I prefer the UK cover to the US edition, which seems a bit staged to me, and doesn’t quite capture the effortless glamour of the UK one.

The novel is part family saga, part murder mystery, set after the Second World War in the idyllic Martha’s Vineyard. Nick and her cousin Helena open the novel in a heatwave, dancing and drinking on their lawn as they look forward to their lives restarting. Helena will be setting off to LA to live with a new husband, while Nick is awaiting the return of her husband Hughes from duty. From the offset, the book is sultry, you can feel the heat and imagine the moonlit nights and salty air and feel the women’s excitement.

The novel is split into five sections, each told from the point of view of one member of Nick and Helena’s family, flashing back and forward in time, spanning across several decades and continents, always returning to the same focal point. The centre of the family is the house in Martha’s Vineyard, Tiger House, and the narratives centre particularly around the events of one summer when Nick’s daughter, Daisy, and Helena’s son, Ed, stumble across a young Hispanic maid who has been brutally murdered.

Circa 1950s - Couple walking with picnic basket on beach - this is how I imagine Nick and Hughes...

Circa 1950s – Couple walking with picnic basket on beach – this is how I imagine Nick and Hughes…

We start with Nick, who is intriguing, smart and intelligent, but also bored and prone to acts of defiance, such as strutting about her rather prim and proper neighbourhood in a revealing swimsuit, or getting drunk with the band she has hired to play at a party she is hosting. She describes her frustration at the husband the War returns to her, so different and distant from the man he was before, spending her days lazing around waiting for him to come home from work, worrying about what meals to make. Then her daughter, Daisy (then 13), picks up the narrative, skipping through a summer when she is intent on winning the junior tennis tournament and spends days in training. It is also the summer when she will first experience love and heartbreak, and this summer will have devastating effects on her life many years later.

I found Helena’s part the most difficult to deal with – she does not have an easy life in L.A. and I found myself wanting more for her, and desperately wanting her to wake up to the realities of life. When it is Hughes’ turn to pick up the thread, we see him in London during the War, at New Year, at a time when home, and Nick, seem very far away. I loved hearing his side of the story, but it is Ed’s narrative that you really wait on – he is like a shadow throughout the book, people are constantly accusing him of creeping up on them, and when he is caught in compromising situations, he describes his interest in people and their misdemeanors as ‘research’. He is a troubled character, feeling the effects of his mother’s passivity, having grown up watching his father as he obsessively collects film and photographs of an ex-girlfriend in the hope of making a film about her. There is something brooding about him that seems to hang over the family.

I didn’t appreciate at the beginning that there would be concurrent narratives from different points of view and I really enjoyed it as it gives you each member of the family’s side of the story. At the end, though, there are still mysteries, family secrets that are best left undiscovered. It highlights the connections that hold a family together that outsiders aren’t privy to, and that even at the worst of times a family will always look out for their own.

The US cover for Tigers in Red Weather

The US cover for Tigers in Red Weather

It is certainly a book that will stay with you. I was chatting about this with my Book Club friends at the beginning of the week and we all loved it. We all discussed how lovely it would be to drink gin cocktails from jam jars and laze on the beach. There are elements of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night in the glamour that surrounds Nick and Hughes, the appeal they have to others and the bond between them. With a little bit of Daisy and Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby in there too I imagine (and of course Klaussman gives Nick and Hughes’ daughter the name – not a coincidence I imagine). And the summer seaside glamour of Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan is also in there too, and the complexities of adult relationships, their children trying to comprehend the secrets between a husband and wife. It’s a heady book to get wrapped up in, and I really cannot wait to see what Liza Klaussman comes up with in her next book.

First Book Award

The other nominees for the Anobii First Book Award in 2012 can be seen here. There are some great books on the list, many of which I would love to read. That said, there are also several that I have never heard of and I wonder if being nominated for the Award has much influence on the visibility of the books and if sales go up much. The Award was won last year by Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan which I’ll admit is one I hadn’t heard of before.

firstbook

The First Book Award is now sponsored by ebooks by Sainsburys – the nominees for this years’ award are listed here, with the announcement of the winner to be made after voting closes on the 14th of October. If you want to vote, you can do so here. There are 42 books on the list and I have to admit that I haven’t read any of them so I won’t be voting this time round. There are quite a few that I haven’t heard of – although I have heard that The Fields by Kevin Maher (about a 13-year-old Irish boy growing up in Dublin in the ’80s) is very good – I actually heard Kevin Maher talking and reading from the book at the Edinburgh Book Festival and thought it sounded dark but funny too so will hopefully read that soon.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Club, Book Reviews

Recent Reads and Library Loot

Books borrowed from my local library this week

Books borrowed from my local library this week

You may have noticed that I have dropped off the face of my blog of late. My last review was back at the end of May… What can I say except that life has been getting in the way. I have recently changed jobs (still within the same company) but with handover prep and learning my new role it has all been rather busy!

I have still been reading other blogs but not as much as I would like to. I’ve found that my brain is simply not able to cope with writing and upkeeping the blog with all of these other things going on. I have been reading lots though, and lots of wonderful books. Disappearing into a story has just been the perfect tonic for my overloaded mind. I will try and get back on track again, even if it is just small updates when I can. I can’t promise any full reviews yet as I have another week of work then a trip away for my brother’s wedding but here are a quick few thoughts on what I’ve been reading recently!

A few of the books I've whiled away the hours with recently...and my favourite reading spot.

A few of the books I’ve whiled away the hours with recently…and my favourite readin spot.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Yes, I succumbed to Gatsby fever and thought it was high time for a re-read of this American classic. I read it first when I was about 16 and I don’t think I really ‘got’ it then. I read this again on a sunny early summer evening in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also went to see the film which I absolutely loved!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This was a book club choice…the book club seems to be a little defunct now although we do all still chat about books. I loved The Book Thief, the characters, the sights and sounds and smells all felt very real. The narrator too – Death! Ingenious. And knowing what will happen in the end does not ruin it at all – it’s set during the Second World War so you know there will be trouble…

Laidlaw by William McIlvanney
Laidlaw is the first in a crime trilogy by McIlvanney, the man who invented the ‘tartan noir’ genre now so familiar to readers of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Christopher Brookmyre. It feels so familiar and yet it was written back in the ’70s and this book is cited by many crime writers as their inspiration. I have been lucky enough to meet McIlvanney and hear him speak and I really loved this book, which sucks you into the underworld of Glasgow in the 1970s. The other two in the series are out too so will be looking to read them soon too!

In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe
A collection of essays, this book is not something I’d usually read as I tend to stick to fiction. That said, I enjoyed reading something different and some of her arguments are persuasive, if at times somewhat controversial. I like to think outside the box and I hate the idea of conforming to society’s mores for propriety’s sake so some of Roiphe’s arguments were intriguing. For a flavour of the contents, Katie Rophe recently wrote a much-commented-on article in The Guardian. Yes, she can be very controversial and may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I like to stretch my mind every once in a while and challenge it with different ideas and just stop and think about things I wouldn’t usually. Either way, this book was a nice change and I’ll definitely be reading more non-fiction in future.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
I was eager to read this (and had been planning to do so) ever since I read The Cone-Gatherers back in October last year. This was another book which I devoured pretty much in one sitting. I can see why The Cone-Gatherers reminded me of this book but they are so completely different in atmosphere and setting. I was reminded of how powerful a book this is, so moving and sad, I am always amazed by how much can be conveyed in so few pages.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
My uncle lent this book to me way back last year and I have only just gotten around to it. I loved the setting of it and the story of the brothers as they head to California on a quest to track down a man for their boss, the Commodore. It perhaps wasn’t the best thing to be reading whilst suffering from the pain of a wisdom tooth coming in as it is a bit gory but I enjoyed it all the same. I was slightly disappointed by the ending but I don’t want to give too much away…

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is the first audiobook I have read/listened to for quite some time. But more on that in my next post…

The beautiful book sculpture donated to Leith Library (Photographed by Literary Paparazzi)

The beautiful book sculpture donated to Leith Library
(Photographed by Literary Paparazzi)

I also stopped off at my local library in Leith on Friday. They have been gifted with another one of the mysterious and beautiful book sculptures that I wrote about in my post during Book Week Scotland last year. I got to have a look at it up close and it really is amazing. Really intricate and detailed and it must have taken so much time and care and attention – and to think that there is a woman somewhere making these just to show support for reading and libraries is wonderful. You can read a full post on their suprise gift over on Leith Library’s blog.

Before gazing at the sculpture, I browsed their shelves and picked up Ancient Light by John Banville, Books Burn Badly by Manuel Rivas, and The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones which I am about a third of the way through and will be getting stuck into again later on this evening.

I have also managed to procure a Nook Simple Touch but will admit I’m a bit unsure of what to do with it! There are a couple of books on it already (one of which is Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything which I am very excited to read!). Edinburgh libraries have an elending platform so I will be browsing that in due course… Now, I feel I have rambled quite enough for one evening! I’m off to do a bit of reading. 🙂

What have you been reading recently? And what have you got coming soon on your reading list?

5 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Literary musings

Holiday Reading Update

Hello all, again it has been a while. I seem to be a feast or famine kind of blogger, but I am getting internet in my flat (finally!) which will make my life an awful lot easier, and my blog a lot more content-filled.

I decided to do a quick round-up review of the books I read on holiday as it has been a few weeks now. I had a wonderful holiday, and lots of much-needed relaxation was enjoyed. The first week was pretty hot (averaging 44°C some days), and I struggled to concentrate whilst I was acclimatising. The second week was moderately cooler and much more bearable (about 39°C) and allowed me to up my reading speed.

I am slightly ashamed to say I only read 4 books on holiday, in fact, arguably only 3 as the third was finished on my return. My boyfriend will never let me live down the fact that he read more books than I did. On his list were James Kelman’s How late it was, how late, Juan Pablo Villalobos’ Down the Rabbit Hole, Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. And he even had time to start on Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I started with the epic (in size and yarn) Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and to be honest, if we’re going by page count, I definitely read more. But that’s by the bye…I’m not bitter, I know it wasn’t a competition. But still…

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Holiday Reading

My holiday books all packed and ready to go!

A holiday is around the corner – hurrah! I haven’t been on a beach holiday for about four years now and I am stupidly excited at the prospect. One of the reasons for my excitement is the opportunity to spend even more time reading books, and hopefully catch up on my goal of reading 52 books this year (I am on number 21 of the year so far, pretty poor for a supposed book blogger…). Two weeks of sunshine and beach reading can’t come soon enough! I have six books packed at the moment and I am waiting on two more arriving in the post. And my boyfriend is taking a few for himself which I may have to muscle my way in on!

Currently packed are as follows:

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Literary musings