The latest craze, book adaptations in TV series

We have all heard of and seen famous books being made into movies. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Great Gatsby and so on and so on, the list is endless. But what about books that are being turned into TV shows? There are a few of those out there, such as Sherlock, based on the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, the hero of several books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Pride and Prejudice is yet another example of a book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, being turned into a TV series. Some of the more recent ones are Call the Midwife, based on Jennifer Worth’s The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times and Game of Thrones, based on the series of books, A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin.

Let’s take a closer look at those two.

Call the Midwife is a great example of how book adaptations in TV can do the story more justice than a film could. Films are usually restricted to a running time of 2 or maximum 3 hours, but a TV show can have any number of episodes and run for any number of seasons (just think about the 27 seasons of the Bold and the Beautiful and they are still going strong). Jennifer Worth’s book describes her time as a nurse in London’s East End during the 1950ies. She depicts the stories of various mothers and their sometimes dramatic deliveries chapter by chapter and the TV show does the same, episode by episode. By having turned it into a series, rather than one single movie, creator Heidi Thomas can tell Jennifer Lee’s story as accurately as possible.

Another TV series adaptation I would like to take a closer look at is Game of Thrones. Having already mentioned that books being turned into TV shows allow for a more literal adaptation of the written work, what I would like to draw your attention to now is the following amazing fact, George R. R. Martin writes the script of one episode per season himself. So the creator of the book allows us a close look at what he himself envisioned when writing his story. That is truly a great opportunity for everyone out there watching to truly participate in the author’s vision. We can see what events he himself found important for the development of the story, better understand his characters motives and personalities, all in all George R. R. Martin is granting us entry into his own personal visualisation of the story, or at least parts of it.

Book adaptions in film

booksmoviesOne thing I was always certain of, is that a book is always better than its movie adaption. Just to clarify a film adaption describes the transfer of a book or other written work to film, whether in whole or just parts of it. My biggest problem with movie adaptations is that often, if not all the time, skip certain parts of the book and I just end up feeling that they are lacking something, even though the story might still be coherent, it’s just not the same.

Let’s just take a look at one of the most popular books to film adaptions in recent years, Harry Potter:

I have read all seven Harry Potter books and was truly captivated, with every page I read. Words such as muggle, quidditch, auror, dementor and many others like them truly enhanced my reading experience and aided greatly in getting into a magical mood. Now what better medium allows you to visualise magic, wizardry and mythical beings better than film? Well, let’s take a look at the movies, the first two were rather faithful to the books, mostly due to the shorter lengths of the books in comparison to the other ones. The third one, I have to admit is one of my favourite, director Alfonso Cuarón is truly one of the great and has created a visually stunning movie with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He did leave out a lot of plot, such as quite a few of the quidditch games and Harry’s patronus charm training. Still the movie turned out to be one of the best and highest rated of the Harry Potter Series. Even though it omitted a lot of parts it is still a great movie, and has changed my opinion on elision.

To finish off, allow me to mention one interesting experiment, in 1924 the Austrian film director attempted a literal adaptation of Frank Norris’ novel McTeague. The film was called Greed and had a running time of 9 and a half hours. The studio urged the director to cut it down, so he did, to four hours, still quite a marathon length for a movie. Without telling the director the studio executives then proceeded to cut it even further to two hours. Now you can imagine what the result looked like, it was a very incoherent movie and is the reason why nearly all following film adaptations have since used elision as a common practice.

In the end I do still think that the movie adaptation can never be as good as the book itself, but there are a few examples out there that get pretty close.

Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life

athomeHave you ever wondered why out of all the hundreds of available spices out there it is salt and pepper that we find on every table? What makes these two so special, why not cardamom or cumin? Speaking of mysteries of our private lives, why do forks come with four tines? What exactly happens in a drawing room? These types of questions are exactly what motivated Bill Bryson to write yet another best seller, At Home: A Short History of Private Life.

The author himself was born in 1951 in America, Des Moines, Iowa to be precise, as William McGuire Bryson. He is best known for writing amusing, informative and absolutely hilarious travel books. His body of work includes books on language, biographies, history and science, most notably A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bryson’s style is unique, always humorous and absolutely captivating. He resides in England with his wife and children enjoying country life on a small island.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life is a book about the history of anything, anything concerning our private lives. People have been doing basically the same things for centuries, kings, rulers and peasants alike, we all go about our business, eat, sleep and procreate and trying to be as comfortable as possible while doing so. Who knew that everyday life can be so interesting? For example, in our day and age we take hot food for granted, if your soup got cold while you were chatting on your mobile phone, all you need to do is pop it into the microwave and heat it up for a few minutes and voila, hot soup. For aristocrats in the earlier centuries hot foods where not a given thing, the distance from the kitchen to the dining room used to be so long, everything could get cold by the time it arrives. Lobsters and oysters used to be available in such abundance, that some houses would add clauses in cooks’ contracts that those delicious crustaceans, we hold so dearly these days, were to be served only once a week, not more, just because people were quite frankly bored of them. These and many other absolutely fascinating facts is what Bill Bryson writes about so wittingly in his book At Home: A Short History of Private Life, so get out there and get yourself a copy.

Next up, One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson’s latest creation about history in the United States and how everything changed, stay tuned.