I’ve been thinking a lot lately about film and television adaptations of books; the good, the bad and the benefits of transitioning from page to screen. I know many people who swear the book is always better than its film counterpart. But I don’t think that’s always the case. Adaptations can be a brilliant tool to encourage reluctant readers or expand the horizons of bookworms.
For readers, an adaptation of a favourite book is often met with excitement and slight trepidation. I know some worry about whether screenwriters will be able to accurately translate the world they’ve been immersed in. In some cases, authors are involved in the adaptation process. In others, they’re not. In My Sister’s Keeper, the conclusion of the story was completely changed (to the outrage of many). The one that always bugged me was the battle being cut out of the end of the sixth Harry Potter film.
One of the best things about an adaptation is it can introduce the novel to a whole new audience. I don’t think this necessarily has to translate to a new readership; books and adaptations can exist independently of one another. However, in many cases I think they go hand in hand. Fans of the book will most likely watch the adaptation, but those who enjoy the film or television series independently can also be drawn back to the books. Series in particular may also get reluctant readers interested in books. I’ve no doubt hundreds of people who wouldn’t consider themselves big readers bought the Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Divergent books after seeing the films. And I’m sure The Fault in Our Stars introduced a whole new audience to John Green’s work.
I’m more likely to be attracted to new books through television adaptations. I’m currently reading The Crow Road, a brilliant book I only discovered after falling in love with the mini series. The adaptation mirrors the book quite well, with a little less depth around some characters than the book allows for. However, I didn’t feel the same about Call the Midwife. I read the book after really enjoying the television series, but it just didn’t work as well for me. I enjoyed it, but I’m satisfied to let the story play out on screen rather than also reading the books. Watching Pillars of the Earth, One Day and Brooklyn also convinced me to invest in copies of the original books.
However, seeing the adaptation before reading undoubtedly has an impact on the way I take in the novel. Even though I didn’t watch any of the Harry Potter films until I’d finished reading the first six books, simply having seen the posters influenced how I pictured most of the characters. Reading The Crow Road, I can perfectly picture the characters and settings based on the mini series. And of course, Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie will always be Anne and Gilbert for me. It sounds silly, but I actually really like being able to clearly picture a character, even if that is based on an adaptation.
Sometimes, I find having seen the adaptation first makes my reading experience better. I’ve found this to be particularly true with classics. I watched adaptations of both Pride and Prejudice and The Great Gatsby before reading the books and I found them far less intimidating. I’d say the same for The Crow Road as well, where the thread of mystery is much more present and compelling in the adaptation. Knowing this has kept me reading the book, which has a much slower pace and more reflective moments for characters.
Adaptations have introduced me to new authors and have helped me conquer my fear of intimidating classics. They may not always please fans of the books, but they have the potential to tell a story to a whole new audience. Those done well only add to the life of a book or series, bringing stories and characters to life in an exciting new way. What do you think of book adaptations? Do you have a favourite?