Anyone else have a weird week? It was weird and intense. I needed a distraction. I remembered that Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches was adapted for television. It debuted on AMC here in the US this week. It seemed like the perfect way to spend my morning. And I really enjoyed the first episode! The casting is wonderful. So far, it is as I pictured it. (The Bishop farmhouse! Can I live there?) It got me thinking about adaptations. Bookworms can be notoriously hard to please when it comes to adapting their favorite novels.
And why wouldn’t we be? Books are immersive experiences. We create whole worlds in our heads simply from words on a page. Our imaginations have no budgets. We, as readers, have full creative control over casting and scenery and costuming, constructed from the author’s words. No wonder adaptations can seem to fall flat, right?
I used to be a really picky viewer. But, truthfully, there’s no way that a tv/movie version of our faves can be totally faithful reproductions. They are different mediums. I find when I release expectations that I enjoy the show or movie so much more. This advice also tends to work really well in other areas of my life, as I’ve had to learn again. And again. And again.
Some adaptations that I’ve really enjoyed are Ian McEwan’s Atonement. The Secret Garden. The Harry Potter series. I think, for me, what makes these examples exceptional is that they stayed true to the spirit of the novels. And in some cases, added even more dimension.
TL;DR: Adaptations are great if you can release expectation and understand that adding every little detail won’t necessarily make your fave adaptations great.
Do you have a favorite book-to-screen adaptation? *Or one that you're dying to see?
*One book that I’d love to see re-adapted is my heart's all-time favorite, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I think it could do with a beautiful re-telling. Can someone please make that happen? Joe Wright, I'm looking at you.