A few weeks ago husband, daughter and I stayed in a beautiful cottage in the Cotswolds. Across the length of one wall in the oak beamed living room was a tower of shelves filled with books. ‘Heaven’ I thought. Even though it was boiling outside, I made husband light the wood burning open fire and then spent some part of the afternoons and every evening dipping into the various novels, poetry volumes, gardening and cookery books in front of it. I think that reading a good book in front of an open fire in a room smelling of wood and smoke is one of my favourite things to do – ever. If it’s rainy, windy or snowy outside even better. We don’t have an open fire in our house but last winter I tried to create my little utopia in our living room by buying an insanely expensive scented candle from True Grace called ‘Library’. It didn’t really measure up and our house smelt like burnt sausages for a month. The thing about expensive candles is they can burn for up to ninety hours.
Anyway, so I’m lounging on the easy chair in front of the fire in the cottage in the Cotswolds perusing the shelves behind me when my eye catches sight of a book that up until that point I was absolutely convinced I had read before. However on closer inspection of Flora Thompson’s, ‘Larkrise To Candleford’ I realised that I had only seen the BBC’s recent television adaptation and had actually never read the book. I began to read and was hooked after the first page. Plot takes secondary billing to her brilliant characterisation and sense of place in this quiet, gentle novel but her mastery in these areas is awe inspiring and has given me lots to draw on in my own writing. The thing is now I can’t decide whether I loved the book because of the TV series or whether the TV series now holds greater value in my mind because I’ve read the book and know the author’s background.It got me thinking about all of the other books that I have discovered or re-discovered over the years as a result of a television adapation or film.
One of my all time favourite films, ‘Under The Greenwood Tree’ is based on the Thomas Hardy novel of the same name. After seeing it, I was inspired to read the book and this in turn reminded me to re-read some of his other novels: Tess of the Dubervilles; Far From The Madding Crowd; The Mayor of Casterbridge. Another book that I’d thought I’d read but hadn’t until I saw the TV adaptation was Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. I was astonished and ashamed that I read this classic for the first time age 32 – and me an English Literature graduate! Of course there are loads of books that I’ve read and deliberately made myself read before seeing the TV series of film (Pride and Prejudice; Sense and Sensibility; Remains of The Day; The English Patient; The Lord of The Rings; Harry Potter (!), to name but a few) and in virtually every instance, I’ve preferred the book to the film (with the exception of Charles Frazier’s ‘Cold Mountain’ – the film is just amazing and also proves that Jude Law is not just a very pretty face but can also do serious acting). However, I’ve realised that when I’ve found a jem of a book by way of the television I’ve actually enjoyed it even more. There’s a discursive essay in there somewhere I’m sure but I don’t start the MA until October so I’ll leave off over thinking it until then.
In the meantime, if anyone can recommend any other book – film – TV adaptation that you think I might be interested in, I’d love to hear from you – just post a reply to this blog.
P.S. No horror stories please -I’m not into gore!