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 Sparks – BETTER
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 Bell – BETTER
“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 Dickens – BETTER
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 Lee – AS 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
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm