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Talking books: When the film is better than the book…..

I started thinking about this post months ago.

My friend Sinead and I – another prolific reader – were enjoying a sunny afternoon in the garden with a few drinks. We got talking about books and adaptations, specifically films that are better than the book, I know, it’s a rarity but it does happen.

The reason this post has taken so long to write is because even though it seemed like a good idea on a hot summer’s afternoon after a couple of beers; in the cold light of day, we struggled to think of more than one. 

Basically, I’ve spent the past four months racking my brain and digging into the recesses of my memory trying to think of films where I’ve a) read the book and b) thought the film was better or was at least as good.

So, here it is, my list

The Notebook by Nicholas SparksBETTER

This was the one adaptation Sinead, and I came up with straight away. 

The film is much better than the book.

I watched the film long before I read the book, I’d probably watched the film a dozen times before I picked up the book. I loved this film.

I loved the story of Allie and Noah, I loved the passion, I sobbed at him reading her their story in the care home when she could no longer remember, I sobbed when she had moments of recollection and remembered him, and I sobbed when it was over. 

Basically, I sob a lot about how beautiful it is, what can I say, I’m a sucker for a love story.

So obviously, I had to check out the book and honestly, it left me flat. 

It just didn’t have the same…. passion and I was a bit, well, non plussed and unmoved.

I guess I expected the book to be better than the film or to at least stir the same emotions, it just didn’t, and I don’t think it would have had I read it before watching it.

Whistle Down the Wind by Mary Hayley BellBETTER

“It isn’t Jesus, it’s just a fella”. Whistle Down the Wind

If you haven’t seen this 1961 classic – find it now and thank me later.

It’s the story of siblings Kathy, Nan and Charles who find a fugitive hiding in their barn and become convinced he’s Jesus.

Despite wanted pictures all around their Lancashire village, the children, Kathy especially, are determined to keep him hidden from the police, convinced he’s Jesus. Charles, who speaks the above the quote, is a little more sceptical.

Oh, and Kathy is played by Hayley Mills, the daughter of the author.

My mum introduced me to this film when I was a teenager; she’d loved it and was sure I would too. 

I, a bit like Charles, was sceptical, after all it was in black and white. I loved it and watched it repeatedly with my brothers, Charles was a bit like my brother David he too wouldn’t have thought a fugitive was Jesus.

Like my mum I’d been won over by a black and white film that was set close to where I live. 

When it came to the book…. I just couldn’t get into it. It’s very different to the film, the ending is much more ambiguous, it was alright, just not as enjoyable.

Oliver Twist by Charles DickensBETTER

Don’t judge me, I like a musical, I do not like Dickens – Great Expectations being an exception.

I read a children’s abridged version of Oliver Twist before watching the film and kind of got on board with it. I’ve tried many, many times to read the full version can not get on board with it, the same goes for Hard Times, Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Nicholas Nickleby; I am not a Dickens fan.

However, give me 153 minutes of “Consider Yourself”, “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two”, “I’d do anything”, “Who will buy” and “Oom-pah-pah” and I’m completely on board. 

That’s what Charlie D was missing…. a bloody good sing song.

I wore the VHS out watching this, or least I would have done had my brother (David again) not destroyed it by pouring chocolate milk over that and multiple other videos that were mine.

While I’m bashing Dickens, I think we can all also agree that “A muppets Christmas Carol” is far superior to the book. Am I philistine? Maybe, who cares? These films are great on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes AS GOOD

I read this before watching it, in fact I resisted watching it for an age, I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Lou Clarke takes a job helping Will Traynor. Lou’s coasting through life with little ambition, Will’s quadriplegic after an accident. As their friendship grows, Lou finds out that Will is determined to end his life at Dignitas in Switzerland, Lou is becomes determined to stop him. They both change each other’s lives.

I didn’t picture Emelia Clarke as Lou, at all, but it worked. The film didn’t explore her background and why she was so listless like the book did but aside from that, it was good.

I accept this book is controversial and viewed as ableist.

I found it thought provoking. I wouldn’t say it was pro assisted suicide, no one agrees with Will’s decision.

I found it to be quite true to life, in my day job I’ve worked closely with a man, Alex, who’s applied for a voluntary assisted death in Switzerland and interviewed families whose lived ones have gone through with it albeit for very different reasons. The arguments between the person making that decision and their friends and family are the same ones that are raised in this book and film, and I found that interesting.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeAS GOOD

All. Time. Favourite. Book.

A rare instance where I read the book and watched the film at the same time. 

I first read and watched this for GCSE English, some lessons would involve reading passages others consisted of watching chunks of the film…. this hybrid learning seemed to happen an awful lot at my school.

I loved them both. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book and watched this film. Gregory Peck is wonderful as Atticus, Mary Badham a perfect Scout. 

Atticus is lawyer who’s defending a black man who’s been accused of raping a white woman, it’s 1930s Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird shows racism, prejudice, and injustice through the eyes of child. It is wonderful and a must read.

The film is as perfect as the book, they both make me laugh, they both make me smile, they both make me furious, they both make me well up.

And, oh my god I never realised that Robert Duvall played Boo Radley….my brain can’t compute…it’s my own “hey Boo” moment, sat on my sofa on a Wednesday night.

So, after four months of thinking I’ve managed to come up with five adaptations that are better or as good as the book.

There’s probably more that I’ve forgotten, there’s always a tendency to be a book snob, I’ve done it myself “I’m not watching that, it won’t live up to the book”, yet sometimes, they really do and even if they don’t’, it’s no bad thing to see a book through someone else’s eyes.

Tell me about your favourite adaptations in the comments.

Happy reading and watching

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

28 thoughts on “Talking books: When the film is better than the book….. Leave a comment

  1. I love Oliver! the musical. I cannot abide Dickens. I once heard a theory that Lionel Bart was effectively mocking Dickens, with the songs making us feel sorry for Fagin and the East End sound like a friendly community with a few bad eggs, like Eastenders 🙂 , rather than the cesspit as which Dickens presented it … and don’t get me started on the way Dickens presents Lancashire in Hard Times!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fun post! One of my choices for As Good is Memoirs of a Geisha! Thanks for sharing your selections.


  3. Interesting and cool post. I’m a bookworm and I also like to watch movies that were adapted from books. But I’m not which movies are better than the books. I always thought that the books are way much better than the movies. The Notebook is one of my favorites. I like the book and the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I’m a HUGE lover of film adaptations to books. And there’s a few where I would much prefer to watch the film than read the book too. I don’t like the “the book is always better than the film” narrative because sometimes it’s just not and they’re completely different mediums to share a story with so naturally some people will prefer something visual. I haven’t read Me Before You but loved that film. I haven’t read Oliver either but love that film as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! Forrest Gump is definitely one to include. It’s my all time favorite movie and perhaps one of the worst books I’ve ever read (he actually goes to space with a gorilla). I didn’t know Me Before You became a movie, I liked the book and should check that out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I definitely agree on To Kill a Mockingbird. Some of my favourite book-to-film adaptations are The Painted Veil (2006), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) (better than the book), Still Alice (2014) (as good as the book) and The Prestige (1995) (better than the book)

    Liked by 1 person

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