Sunday Salon – Currently Reading

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.

18 thoughts on “Sunday Salon – Currently Reading

  1. I have to read ‘Atonement’ for a book group meeting in September where we will be discussing the book in the morning and then seeing the film in the afternoon and comparing the two. It’s a shame you can’t join us. I have never yet managed to finish the book. I can’t get past the incident with the Ming vase; it floors me completely, but I’m going to have to get over this somehow.


  2. Ann, how interesting and yes I wish I could join you. Cecilia’s attitude to Robbie in this incident is the problem for me, she’s such a snob and so stubborn. Still, the book hinges on this incident.


  3. I was thinking about the movie question later on too. People had alot of different opinions that I hadn’t thought about.
    For some reason I haven’t read or seen Atonement but I know I must read it someday.


  4. I’ve recently begun reading more Agatha Christie as well. I love her writing style. I also highly recommend The Book Thief. It starts a little slow but then really sucks you in. It kept me up many a night just to finish it…and was one of those rare books that made me cry. I’m interested in seeing what you think about it.


  5. I’m half way through watching Atonement – i found I was too tired to concentrate on watching it on Friday. I remember very little from the book apart from the opening scenes, I am thinking of going back and reading it as I can’t believe I have forgotten so much. One of my friends who has read the book was shocked that I couldn’t remember the end at all – she made the ending sound very big and hard to forget, but I guess I’ve managed.


  6. I’ll be picking up the Book Thief within the next couple of weeks for a book club read. I’m looking forward to it and will be interested to hear your thoughts. I don’t watch many movies and especially resist one’s made from books I really like. I find them almost always a disappointment. Plus, I like to keep my own images of characters and settings in my head, rather than some cinematographer’s. Does that sound harsh?

    I know you’ll enjoy Huckleberry Finn. William Faulkner said that all of American Literature and especially all of the Literature of the American South was sired by this book. A very large claim indeed. In any case, Twain is a great favorite of mine. I am also big Christie fan, but also enjoy her contemporary, Dorothy Sayers. The Nine Tailors is high up on my to-be-reread pile.


  7. Yes, I’m in the mood for Agatha Christie after last week’s Dr. Who, too, but for the life of me can’t decide what to read! I read quite a few of her books when I was young but realise I’ve never read *any* Miss Marple or Poirot, part from possibly Death on the Nile. A typical case of having watched the TV series but not read the books. I thought the actress playing her in Dr. Who was superb.


  8. I’ve recently re-read Atonement myself, and then watched the film. I wasn’t terribly disappointed in the film (as I often am), and was able to accept the differences better than I sometimes do. I do think the film did a fine job capturing the sense of period – the era and the war time concerns. It really brought that part of the book to life for me. I also felt the film was rushed in comparison to McEwans rather slow and intricate pacing. (Having just read his latest novel, On Chesil Beach, I’ve discovered he’s quite the master at this.)

    I haven’t read any Agatha Christie in years – one summer during high school, a friend and I challenged ourselves to read every one. I think I overdid it 🙂


  9. So glad that you watched the movie Atonement and actually enjoyed it. The story in itself is the perfect classical drama. I liked the choice of actors, I thought they did an excellent job in casting them. Then the scenery, the filming, the daunting typewritter sound following the footstepps of some of the actors, the sepia color of the war. The suspense and the agony of each characters were well illustrated. The details missing in the movie are filled by having read them in the book. I believe that the movie stayed close to the book for most of the story, maybe changing some of the war horrors details. The author is so good at building up the tention and I could taste the tension in the movie. Such a sad story. I was so angry about the whole thing when I was done. Angry and sad. I loved that book and the movie as well.
    I am reading right now the Book Thief and really enjoy the style. It has a very clever way to introduce the characters. It is also a new way to show the WWII events through german civilians that were not jews but regular everyday people, how they slowly got indoctrined in the ideas of being a superior race. I am in the first part of the book. There is so much more to enjoy at this point. I am glad about that.


  10. I read Agatha Christie years ago and couldn’t even tell you which I read. I bought Atonement but couldn’t get into it at the time and do not want to see the movie until I have read the book. I’ll check back to see how you are doing with Agatha Christie. I hope you had a great day!


  11. Jamie, the BTT question is one that I have pondered over for a long while. I want to like films of books, but usually I’m sorry I watched them.
    Irish, thanks, I’ve heard others have found The Book Thief very moving too, which makes me want to read it.
    Katrina, I fell asleep watching it the first time! I’m glad I’m not the only one who forgets what she’s read.
    TJ, I’ve been meaning to read The Book Thief for months and was prodded by Cornflower’s reading group on her blog to pick it up and start it. I don’t think you’re harsh at all – I’d much rather have my images as well.
    Diddy, thank you – I didn’t know that. Maybe I’ll have a look at it.
    Cath, wasn’t that episode of Dr Who great? The actress who played Agatha was fantastic.
    Ravenous Reader, I thought parts of the film were rushed and other parts were so slow. So far in my re-reading of the book I’m finding the film sticks to the story with just a few differences and of course there are parts left out – it would be better as a drama series maybe.
    Roxanne, you put it so well. I agree that the film portrays the tension and agony well. I haven’t got to the war in the book yet and will read it with interest – I usually gloss over battle descriptions. I’m looking forward to reading more of The Book Thief too.
    Erin, I can’t remember which Agatha Christie’s I’ve read either and as I’ve watched so many on TV that makes it even more difficult to know which ones I’ve read.


  12. Thanks for the links to your earlier posts on Cranford — I read them before but was glad to read them again with the book fresh in my mind. I’ll make sure I don’t watch the movie any time very soon, as I’ll sure be disappointed if I do!


  13. I also especially enjoy watching a film just after finishing the book. It doesn’t always work out so neatly, but when it does, it’s wonderful. I enjoyed Atonement, the book and the film. For some reason I was confused about the ending of the film and had to go back and re-read that part. Fun to read that there will be more Cranford!


  14. Do hope you enjoy The Mitfords – am sure you will.
    I read so many Agatha Christie’s a while ago, and my brother has read the lot, but it’s been quite a few years since I picked one up. Somehow detective fiction just doesn’t appeal at the moment – I’m sure I’ll come back to it.


  15. Oh, how I loved Atonement when I read it when it first came out. I loved the rich detail and was completely engrossed from cover to cover. I recently watched the movie and while I enjoyed it, I still think the book was much better. I may have to follow suit and re-read it as you are. The only other book by McEwan that I’ve enjoyed is Saturday. I didn’t care for Amsterdam or Endurance.


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