It happened again.
I went to the bookshop near my office the other day. I went for a specific reason - to get the second in the Hunger Games trilogy, because they had them in their window a few weeks ago. However, the first thing I saw when I walked through the door was the sequence of large tables covered in books...SALE.
I mean, really... I am not proof against three tables full of discounted books. Three tables full, I might add, of hardcovers with dust jackets, priced at either $10 or $15... I appeal to my fellow book junkies, some of whom I know follow this blog, for support. What would you have done???
I succumbed. I am not regretful. Because - and as all good book junkies know, the ability to justify the purchase of a book with a creative premise is mandatory - Dearly Beloved and I went to see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen on the weekend. It was a miserable, rainy afternoon, neither of us felt like working, so we headed for chock-tops and a feel-good movie. Which it is - for any of you who haven't yet seen it, GO. Anyways, just as we were getting out of our seats, I caught the magic words 'adapted from the novel by...' - didn't catch the name... The first book I saw on the first table in the shop was a tiny, fat, blue dust jacketed hardcover of the novel from the film - which is by Paul Torday.
Now, I have some issues about films made from books, which I'm sure many of you share. There is nothing worse than going to see a film made from a book you've loved, and imagined and seen in your imagination for years - and to see a travesty of the story and characters on the big screen. (Small screen adaptations - unless made by the BBC - can be even worse...Little House on the Prairie comes to mind...) It's nearly always better to discover a book via a film than to do the reverse. I certainly found that with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Thoroughly enjoyed the films, and love the details and subtleties in the books which I discovered reading them much later.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is one of those delightfully quirky British films that can't really fail to charm. The trailers suggested something above the average chick flick, I liked the cast, and it delivered so much more. The book is a different beastie altogether. It is epistolary in structure, which is one of the more challenging ways to craft a narrative, especially in this case where there are so many voices. There are diary entries, email exchanges, transcripts of interviews and interrogations, just to name a few. Where the film has a straightforward linear narrative, the book runs overlapping narratives as it moves between voices. The interrogation transcripts suggest (I'm about halfway through reading) a future investigation, that isn't part of the film, that the author breaks up and situates, segment by segment, in the 'real' time of the narrative. It's fascinating, and adds a richly textured colour that isn't a part of the film.
It brought me back to The Hunger Games - that book may never leave me.... - and another blog post I found with an excellent discussion about both book and film which you can find here. If you read it, have a look also at the comments, because it generated a great discussion. The writer, another Karen, also saw the film - which I have yet to do. She made a particularly interesting comment about the 'voice' of the story. In the book, we experience the story through Katniss, the lead character. We get everything from her, warts and all. Think about it... When we speak to people, we edit. What goes on in our heads, in immediate response to what we hear, see and experience isn't edited. And sometimes, the first thing we think isn't nice... In the book, we get all of that from Katniss. We feel her anguish when Rue dies, followed by her fierce and angry sense of rebellion when she covers Rue's body with flowers - an act edited out in the final televised version - her confusion about Peeta and whether or not his professed love for her is real or manufactured for the game, and everything in between. In her discussion on the blog, Karen - and others in the conversation via the comments - make the point that with the single viewpoint of watcher, we don't have access to the intensity of that unedited experience which is possible in a book.
I didn't buy the second book in the series. By the time I got to the end of the tables, I had Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a Holocaust memoir, a story from a member of the French Resistance in WWII, a biography of Louisa May Alcott, a dissertation by an Israeli historian on the Arab/Israeli conflict from 1936 to now, a cool book on maths for Twenty - who was here for a holiday - and a book on Roman emperors for Dearly Beloved. I figured that was enough to go on with and continuing with The Hunger Games could probably wait!
I think I need another bookcase.
Oh, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also started life as a novel...