For today’s Sunday Salon I’m writing about books I have on the go at the moment, some of which are listed in the sidebar. I really should remove Les Miserables from the list, as I’ve not read any of it for a couple of weeks now, but I’m a good way into each of the other books, apart from Atonement. I added this yesterday, despite having other books that I’ve already started or planned to read.
I just have to re-read Atonement, a book I first read about five or six years ago, because of the Booking Through Thursday post on Books versus Movies. I mentioned I hadn’t seen the film of the book and was a bit hesitant to do so because generally I don’t enjoy a film after reading the book. See here for my reasons. Quite by chance the film was available and I watched it on BT Vision. I thought it didn’t start as the book started so I got the book off the shelf and found that I can’t trust my memory. I’d remembered the start as the incident that triggered the story and had forgotten the opening scenes – the beginning of the book and the film are the same! So now, of course I just have to read the book again. I have a suspicion that the book ended differently too, but now I’m not sure how reliable my memory of that is either.
I’ve been reconsidering my opinions about books versus movies. Because I watched the film on TV I could stop and rewind and play again – I watched it twice. This is a bit like reading a book; you can watch it in chunks, like reading chapters and you can go back over parts you weren’t sure of (or fell asleep in). I enjoyed the film and I’m glad I watched it at home, even though you don’t get that all-encompassing atmosphere of the cinema – the dark auditorium and that enormous screen that you can’t watch both sides at once. But then you don’t get the annoying presence of other people – crunching sweets, rustling bags, pushing past when they leave their seats and crossing in front of the screen, or even worse talking.
There is so much more detail in a book, as inevitably events are condensed in a film. I was confused watching Atonement at the beginning. Why were they rushing about and talking so quickly, hardly opening their mouths? Why did Cecelia dash to the fountain to fill the vase with water instead of going to the kitchen? I’ve only read the first few chapters of the book up to now, but it is all so much clearer in the book and so enjoyable to read. Despite these niggles I was completely engrossed in the film; the tension and emotion of it all, capturing the pre-war mood in contrast to the stark realism of the war years.
I also think it makes a difference to me if I see a film soon after I’ve read the book and I can remember the details. This happened when I watched the BBC’s version of Cranford, which really was a version and not the ‘real’ thing. The acting was superb and the settings were lovely, but the stories were an amalgamation of other books by Elizabeth Gaskell and the scriptwriter’s own inventions and because I’d just finished reading Cranford a few days before the first episode I was constantly identifying each strand. It was most distracting and irritating. I wrote more about this here and here .
So watching Atonement, the film has made me want to re-read the book, completely wrecking my reading plans. I’ll be reading that today and not the others listed in the sidebar or even these other books, which I’m planning to read:
- Down To a Sunless Sea by Matthias B Freese. I’ve read two of the short stories in this book.
- The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I’ve read the Prologue.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I’ve been meaning to read this ever since I finished Tom Sawyer.
- The Seven Dials Murder by Agatha Christie. I thought I’d read some of her books after watching the last Dr Who episode.
- The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters – thanks to Simon’s review.