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Top 10 Tuesday: Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. 

For my very first ever Top 10 Tuesday I’ve decided to list the books I read after I’d seen the film or TV screen adaptations.

‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ – Matthew Quick

My boyfriend and I went Christmas shopping one afternoon in December 2012 underestimating how many other people would have the same idea. Within minutes we ditched the shopping idea and went to the centre’s cinema. I knew nothing about the film but loved it to the point that I read the book soon afterwards. Both are a quirky take on mental health and family dynamics, with the main difference being the role of the parents. Both enjoyable and quite different products despite focusing on the same cast.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ – Stephen Chbosky

This was one of those novels that I read about as a teenager but never found it in a bookshop. When the film was released in 2012 I really enjoyed it, but wanted to read the book to see how the story played out in its original setting of 1999. I don’t remember there being a vast difference between the two, neither in plot or characterisation, and liked them both. My brother, however, swears the book is better.

‘The Prestige’ – Christopher Priest

I had the film plot in mind as I read through this weighty, wordy magician centred novel in the summer of 2007. I’m not sure I’d have been focused (or clever!) enough to have followed it through and understood the ending had it not been for the film, which pulled out the main points and dressed the bare bones. Interestingly, the film’s winner is in contrast to the novel’s.

‘Fight Club’ – Chuck Palahniuk

Having seen the film in 1999, it was years and years later that I finally got round to reading the book. I was surprised by how much more I enjoyed the film. There’s nothing wrong with the book, so it’s a comment on how well envisioned and executed the adaptation was.

‘I Am Legend’ – Richard Matheson

I still remember being struck by the creativity of the film’s first scene with Will Smith’s character driving a Porscherrari* through a city so abandoned that nature has taken back the skyscrapers and wild animals have moved in. The film was good and the end – well, it was the mid-noughties and there was a penchant for zombie films that ended with a sense of hope. The novel, which I read several years later, was written in the 1950s and had a very different take on what was needed to reset a world that had only known disease. I enjoyed the film until I read the book, though as they carry two very different messages, it’s easy to separate them.

‘The Stepford Wives’ – Ira Levin

Disappointingly, the film missed the dark humour of the novel. It felt like a project that enabled whichever studio produced it to parade a group of beautiful, glamorous and most significantly, obedient, women in the shadow of the novella’s title. The part where I gave up inside was the point where a wife opens her mouth and her husband uses it as an ATM slot. Especially after that, the book had to be more intelligent and upon reading it, it seemed that the novella highlighted gender politics whereas the film was more invested in the sexual gratification of Stepford-ness.

‘The Haunting of Hill House’ – Shirley Jackson

I hadn’t realised that I’d seen an earlier adaptation of this novel, 1999’s The Haunting which was just awful. The Netflix series shown last year was, fortunately, a million miles better than the most recent attempt to adapt Jackson’s work. In the deep of winter there’s nothing better (to me) than a gothic and ghostly yarn and despite having The Fear (that it couldn’t possibly be as good as I hoped it would be), the short novel was incredible. Incredibly different from the adaptation’s modern and family based retelling.

‘American Psycho’ – Bret Easton Ellis

I watched the film on DVD in my bedroom, sat on a blue, inflatable armchair. It was the year 2000. I don’t remember the shocking bits being as shocking as I thought they would be – possibly because both the book and film were surrounded by so much hype. In the sixth form common room, a girl read excerpts from the book, which out of context just seemed odd and I never thought I’d bother with the book, thinking it was probably pointless guts and gore. In 2003 I finally got round to reading the book (bored at university) and it was unlike anything I’d ever read before. It was the first book I’d read by the author and while not the nicest introduction, he’s one of the few authors that I’ve read everything by.

‘Sex and the City’ – Candace Bushnell

I started watching Sex and the City from the first night it started on Channel 4 in 1998 – or was it 1999? It took some time to grow on me but around the end of season two I was hooked. I brought the book in 2001 and it sat unread for years. I was disappointed when I read it that it wasn’t about four best friends who wore nice clothes and met for brunch. I finally read it in 2008. Very different from the TV series that exploded from it and I didn’t particularly like any of the characters.

‘Legally Blonde – Amanda Brown

This was quite stunningly different from the optimistic and inspirational mid-noughties film. The novel’s Elle Woods is a manipulative meanie who flirts with fellow students as a method of completing her assignments. I’m very glad I saw the film first as there’s no way I would have watched it had I read the book first.

*Commonly recognised as a car that drives fast, sounds loud and makes me point and shout ‘Batmobile!’

Top University Based Books

I dropped out of my first university and when I re-started elsewhere I made the economic decision to save money by staying at home and commuting to university. This coincided with a period of absorbing anti-socialness, as I decided to concentrate on studying at the expense of the student experience. This allowed me to grow out my eyebrows and if I ever needed to live a little vicariously, the following novels were pretty good vessels…

‘Penelope’ – Rebecca Harrington

One of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time, Penelope follows the eponymous character as she battles to find her feet at Harvard. Harrington’s dry sense of humour zones in on universal ‘new-girl’ weak spots covering everything from dorm posters to casual sex. Awkward but incredibly identifiable.

‘The Secret History’ – Donna Tartt

Set in a New England college, the novel follows a group of Classics students who, under the liberal supervision of their professor, create a lifestyle that sets them apart from their mainstream contemporaries. It gets really fun when one of their group goes missing… A dark and decadent story and an absolute must-read.

‘Rules of Attraction’ – Bret Easton Ellis

A group of students in the 1980s as envisioned by Bret Easton Ellis. The novel is told via a mix of view points, one of those belonging to Sean Bateman (with his delightful brother Patrick making a surprise appearance at some point) and another in French. It starts with a mid-way sentence and ends the same way. A bootlick being run over like a steamroller, but in a good way.

Related To Be Read…

  • ‘On Beauty’ – Zadie Smith
  • ‘The Art of Fielding’ – Chad Harbach