Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"All Quiet" and "I don't know how she does it"

Hello everybody

Feel like I've not posted anything for a while - combination of technical ineptitude (thanks for sorting me out Emily!), busy weekends and cricket. Never mind, am back now and have finished All Quiet on the Western Front as recommended by Emily. It's great - a really frank insight into trench warfare, and the whole hopelessness that surrounded the kids on the front line - how they were changed by the experience, and most striking for me how they weren't actually looking forward to the end of the war that much. There wasn't much for them to look forward too.

I've also recently finished I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. Falls into "chick-lit" category, I guess, but it was an enjoyable read about a woman trying to balance a city job with motherhood, and v funny in parts. It actually has the distinction of being the only book I can remember that made me cry at one point. This makes it sound better than it was - it's not some massively moving tome, just one part that slaps you in the face a bit. Think I must be getting soft in my old age.

Books from films is a tricky one. I've never read The English Patient but I enjoyed the film and it highlights for me a particular problem with such transformations, in that books are written as books and films as films. Obvious point perhaps, but it is a very different writing style, and to carry it off it helps to be called Anthony Minghella (who also did the Inspector Morse series from the books in great style). Books often rely heavily on long descriptive narrative to let you see into the characters' world and minds, but you just can't get away with that in a film, where the key factor is "show don't tell". To use the example of The English Patient I know plenty of people who found it too slow. My memory of it is that it's very dependant on a lot of narration, and this slows everything down - you need to be in the right mood to put up with it.

The books that do transfer well are your murder mystery types - plot dependant books rather than character driven, and there's a whole raft of good examples of these. Many of the TV crime dramas that kick around for any length of time (Morse, Frost, Rebus, P.D. James' stuff) have come from books (at least initially) and they work well for me.

If there's a big enough budget, fantasy will also tranfer (Lord of the Rings style budget) but I also have to give an honourable mention to Harry Potter. I'm not exactly the biggest fan, and have only read the first book, but the films seem to work (especially since they managed to keep J.K. Rowling off the set).

Second question I seem to have managed to miss is favourite authors. I don't really have any, although I would probably mention Peter Carey, Iain Banks and Vikram Seth if pushed. If you can include playwrights then it would have to be John Godber and Alan Bennett (plays) and Stephen Poliakoff, Peter Bowker and Paul Abbott (TV).

Anyway, enough for now - I'm going to track down a copy of It's How I Live Now and will report back in due course (word of warning - I'm not the world's fastest reader, although the review suggests it to be a fairly easy read). If anyone's after a laugh I recommend Tuscany for Beginners by Imogen Edwards-Jones - I really enjoyed it (a story of a woman setting up a B+B in Tuscany) but then perhaps that's because the awful Belinda reminded me of someone I used to know...