I recently (finally) watched Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I loved the book. Loved it. Can’t read enough articles about Laura Hillenbrand. The way she tells the truth with vivid detail and no commentary or judgment is stunning.
I didn’t love the movie. I know I’m way behind the times here and most people warned me that I would be disappointed. I wasn’t really disappointed, I hadn’t expected to enjoy the movie. I don’t enjoy most movies, I’m not a movie person. While my family watches movies, I read. So, my expectations were low and the film met those low expectations. It felt like just another movie about war and POWs and trauma. It was well done with that in mind but to me, it didn’t stand out from others in the same genre. Not the way the book did.
What I loved about the book were the redemptive elements and learning about the aftermath of the war. How did these men move on? How did they heal, or not? How did they continue to relate to one another, or not? How on earth did the main character, Louie Zamperini, make it out of the war and into the rest of his life with hope? The movie left all of that out.
So read the book. Again. Forget the movie.
What about other books vs. movies? I have already made it pretty clear that I will always love the book more than the movie. Also, these are mostly fiction and I’m not a big fiction connoisseur, so no expertise here. But are there any that are reasonably decent?
I’m going to say not really. And if you disagree, please post a comment. Keep in mind here that we have no movie theater in the country. That’s right. No movie theater. So I am way, way behind. I sort of catch up on airplane rides to the US which come once every year or two so yeah, way behind.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Book, lovely, sad, surprising and a light read. Movie? Totally wrong. Got it all wrong and so messed up the ending that I couldn’t even believe it. Changed it from a unique and surprising story to a run-of-the-mill story.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I enjoy this movie fine enough but it just can’t capture the humor and richness of the characters the book. The pride and the prejudice just don’t come through as vividly. Plus, in the most recent version with Keira Knightley I find Darcy a bit creepy and the kissing scene sort of weirds me out. Read it.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Another summer read that I flew through but the movie simply can’t capture the depth of wrongness in the character’s relationship and the horrible ways they treat each other and manipulate each other.
Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. At least in the book you learn a little bit about Somalia. In the movie you pretty much only learn about blood and shooting and see Somalis (who mostly aren’t even Somalis) popping up and getting shot down like characters in that state fair game where you have to knock down the moles that pop up.
The list could go on and on. Basically my point is this: read the book. Unless you are on an airplane.
What I’m reading this week
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (listening)
The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary Haugen Can’t recommend this highly enough. Listen to this Ted Talk and then read the book. It is about the powerful and overlooked impact of violence on the poor.
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer, National Book Award winner this year and fascinating.
African Friends and Money Matters: Observations from Africa (Publications in Ethnography, Vol. 37) by David Maranz for organizational meetings and discussion.
The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide: A light-hearted but authoritative manual for anyone accompanying their partner on an overseas assignment by Clara Wiggins
What are you reading (or watching)?
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I loved Unbroken and figured there was no way they could do the book justice so I have skipped the movie so far. I need to read P and P. I have it on my Kindle, but don’t get to it. I really enjoy both versions of the movies. But I agree in the Knightley version, Mr. Darcy is a bit creepy.
I will need to go through your ‘The Bookshelf’ next month when we are in the US with REAL books and libraries!!!!
Hurrah for libraries and English book stores!
Howard’s End …. the book and the Anthony Hopkins movie version are pretty wonderful. It was a rare moment when I felt like the book had come to life. That’s the only one I can think of that makes me happy when I compare movie/book.
I have to say I’ve had generally had pretty good experiences w/Merchant Ivory productions. I mean, they’re clearly a certain genre, but given the times they were written in, dealing with the subtleties that they do…I just like them. Passage to India is another favorite book. I just admire his writing style.
Currently reading Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart”. I had started Americanah, but had to hit pause b/c the Achebe book is this month’s selection for my book club. I’m actually curious to see how I feel about Nigeria after reading BOTH books, hah. I have a feeling book club will be pretty interesting given the missionaries profiled in the Achebe book (and the type of people in my group).
I’ll have to look into Howard’s End, glad to hear sometimes the movies ARE done well. Will certainly be interesting to read those two books near each other, would love to hear your thoughts when you finish.
My husband and I liked Unbroken (the movie), but I always have a hard time with torture scenes in movies (but perhaps even more so when they are true stories), so I had to walk out at parts of it. I just finished “Fieldwork: A Novel” by Mischa Berlinski (fascinating!), “Maude” by Donna Mabry (a memoir of her grandmother’s life – true story), and the USA Culture Smart! book. I also just recently watched Ender’s Game, which really made me think. At a few friends’ recommendations, I bought the book and just started it as well as “The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut” (Nigel Barley) and “Ethics & World Religions: Cross-Cultural Case Studies” (Wolfe & Gudorf).
How many books to you read in a week?
This is the second mention of Innocent Anthropologist I’ve heard in a few weeks, will have to get my hands on a copy.
I loved the movie Fried Green Tomatoes so much that I got the book, but was disappointed in it in comparison to the movie. And I have to agree with Howard’s End too.
Agree. Always read the book! (Except for Harry Potter. You can read the books if you want but there’s a lot of extraneous detail in there that the movies cut out while still basically getting the story right.)
I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Maranz. I read it earlier this year because it was one of those books every expat in Africa should read but it didn’t really ring true for us, or our Tanzanian friends when we ran it past them. Not sure if it’s an East / West Africa thing, or that we’re in town with urbanised people so not the traditional African village scenario, or something else…
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