The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

book-bite

Published: 1956Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Heinemann
Pages: 199
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  ★   ★  – 4 Stars

 

When Missis and Pongo’s puppies go missing, the two Dalmatian parents know the scary Cruella de Vil has had something to do with it. After all, she adores furs, and the Dalmatians have such beautiful coats… The dogs’ pets, Mr and Mrs Dearly, don’t understand them, so it is up to Pongo and Missis to rescue their pups.

 
I found this book when I was in the midst of tracking down books of movies I love and this was one of them. A book I didn’t know existed but am glad to have found. The story of The Hundred and One Dalmatians is charming and sweet and looks at the world through the eyes of a dog. Not in depth, but these animals still see the world very human like, less as a dog alone and more dog in a human world.

For those who think they know this story will be surprised at the differences, but some similarities stay the same to the movie versions. It is a bit odd reading it with preconceptions but you soon forget and embrace the story as its own. As characters the dogs are not that bad. Pongo is a strong dog who loves his ‘pet’ and his ‘wife’. Pongo’s wife Missis is a bit daft and a little stupid if anything but she is sweet. I had liked the idea of two strong dogs fighting for their puppies but Missis is too stupid sometimes though for a dog it is understandable, but the way other dogs are portrayed she stands out, though some of the explanations about Pongo and his behaviour as just as farfetched. There is a third dog added into the story, I didn’t care for her very much for the most part but by the end she is tolerable and every one has their place.

I did like how close to reality some of this remained. Smith looks at the logistics of traipsing all those dogs across England and knows that for them it isn’t going to be a quick trip. She includes potential dangers and how dogs can be limited no matter how much they ‘learn’. I am not entirely sure when this was set, but based on its first edition and some references it was before a lot of suburbia took over England and a lot of modern conveniences took over. This makes it very adventurous but being from that era it is adds realism.

A lot of dogs feature in this and each have their own helpful natures that are very dog like. But they are subject to judgement as it certainly doesn’t add to the Staffy’s reputation, but aside from that a lot of these breeds are true to nature even if a smidge exaggerated.

Smith plays with the reader a bit but in the end it is rewarded and makes a good memory test trying to keep track of everyone but she did well. A decent read and a new experience for someone who likes this story, especially if you are ingrained in the movie versions as I was.

You can purchase The One Hundred and One Dalmatians via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Published: June 1975 (print)/1 September 2005 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Avon Books/ABC Audio
Pages: 478/5 hrs
Narrator: Kerry Francis
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Classic/Young Adult/Fantasy
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stout-hearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society. 

The way I had heard people talk about this book I was expecting it to be filled with death, heartache and disaster. I compared it to Animals of Farthing Wood where they lost members of their party and the entire book was about their journey. This was not entirely the case, but I guess, in a way, this was also a tough journey, especially into the unknown.

The different rabbit warrens were interesting and seeing the different scenarios they came upon made for an entertaining read. Seeing our world through the rabbit perspective was curious because sometimes they knew what things were other times they didn’t. This of course was due to where they lived. They knew some human things but not others because they had never seen them before.

I listened to a dramatisation which said it was unabridged but I was looking at my physical copy later and I’m sure most of it was there, but with dramatisations there is a lot less “he said, she said” required not to mention description as you can act it out with different voices and sound effects which might have made the difference.

The actors brought the characters to life really well, I liked the voices chosen for them and it reflected their personalities. Hazel was a wonderful character, he wasn’t flawless but he had a good heart. Surprisingly Fiver didn’t annoy me as much as I thought he would with his dramatics. They never explained much but perhaps that was the mystery of the rabbit world.

Adams was clever with parallels, the stories of El-ahrairah to influence the decisions of the rabbits. It created an understanding of the rabbit community and practice and how their beliefs played into their everyday life. Inspiration from their folklore to aide their current perils. Not only that but their own ingenuity to become greater than they were in order to survive.

As heartless as it sounds, I enjoyed the ending. I liked that brains beat brawn and even if some parts were strange, overall it was a good story. I’d always heard about this horrible ending and I can see how it might be a tad traumatic if you were a kid. I watched the movie afterwards, the 1970s version, and I can see their point. Despite the cartoon nature the violence really shines through and I will agree that end scene was visually very bloody and violent.

Thinking about it, I did enjoy the story more than I might have been in the middle. I have a few questions such as their ongoing (but logical) obsession with does, but also the fact they never try to rescue anyone else from their sorry lives when they meet them. Surely there would have been others who would have loved to come and join them, but they never thought to ask. If that is my only true criticism then that’s not so bad.

You can purchase Watership Down via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audio – Dramatisation

Best Book-to-Movie Adaptations

There is a fine line between a good book adaptation and a poor one. The smallest thing can tip the scales: changing the ending, removing a character, inventing a character, or changing the character roles which alter their onscreen personality (looking at your Ron Weasley, you deserved better).

Booklovers crave and desire to see their favourite books come to the big screen, but at the same time there is a deep trepidation that there will be a great injustice and disservice to the characters and the overall story. I could write page after page of bad book to film adaptations and while that is tempting, it is negative and a bit mean so instead I want to focus on the few I have found which were truly wonderful movies that stay true to the original story.

If a book becomes a movie and I see a runtime of 2.5 hours I have a good feeling because so often it means a great adaptation with a lot true to the book. Not always the case, there will always be exceptions, but it gives me hope.

The Lord of The Rings Series (Extended editions) – Anyone who is out there thinking that 3 hours is enough time to swoon over Aragorn and his wonderful hair is greatly mistaken. I sat through the extended editions of all three films because if I was going to watch them I was going to do it right. No doubt unimportant plot points were included in those extra 30 minutes but it was a great representation of the books. All the little moments and extended scenes, the minor things that became big. The only issue is Merry and Pippin don’t get the serious portrayal they deserve, there’s cheeky but then there’s foolish which Jackson did a bit too much.

The Martian – I was curious how the greatest book of all time was going to be portrayed in film but I had nothing to worry about. There is so much to love about this movie and every minute was a delight. The only downside is the best part of the book was not included re: Aquaman and whales. Other than that, it was a marvellous film from start to finish and felt like a true depiction of the book, minor addition to the end aside.

Gone Girl – For all the hate I had for the book, the movie is actually an accurate representation of the story. I was curious how they would show the flashbacks and the ‘diary’ component but David Fincher has done a great job. It might have been a better movie to see without reading the book because I didn’t hate Nick quite as much in the movie.

Paper Towns – This one I was surprised by my own reaction to. There are changes to the story, a few character moments tweaked and swapped, but the overall theme and feeling of the book has been translated to the screen really well. It felt the same as the book, even though there were a few changes it didn’t matter. It stayed true to the message even with the required movie changes and I was impressed.

The Hunger Games – One of the best adaptations I have seen of a book. It had everything that made the books amazing and it felt as strong and powerful watching it as when I was reading it. I felt the books were playing out in front of me and I loved every minute of it.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – I remember this being the first movie adaptation of a book I’d really paid attention to. I have a vivid memory as it began thinking it was word for word of the book and I loved everything about it. Sure Peeves is missing, but there’s so much else true to that first book that brought that magical experience to life.

Honourable mentions

The Book Thief – I missed a few of the nuances and scenes from the book but it was still an emotional kick in the guts. Not quite as powerful as the book, but still excellent nonetheless.

The Princess Bride – I actually fell in love with the movie before I read the book many years later and I was surprised at their similarities. It’s not an unlikeable movie, quite wonderful in fact, but there are a few changes but the spirit remains and what was left in was delightful.

RQ42

I also hated Girl on the Train, and was yes, was surprised I hated the movie as well. Funny that…

These are only the adaptations I have seen, if there are some excellent movie adaptations out there of books please let me know so I can check them out.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Published: 24 May 2012 (print)/24 May 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Broadway Book/Orion Publishing Group
Pages: 415/19 hours 18 minutes
Narrator: Julia Whelan, Kirby Heyborne
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Thriller
★ – 1 Star

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

There have only been a few books that I felt cheated by, genuinely cheated by. These include The Last Battle by C.S Lewis, The End by Lemony Snickett, and to a very small degree To All The Boys I Have Loved Before by Jenny Hann. Being cheated by a book is more than disliking it, it is where I feel the author themselves have cheated me as a reader by building up my expectations and leading us to a point, only to dismiss our investment in their characters and turn the entire thing on its head with no point or purpose, ignoring everything that has come before.

Granted, each of these books cheated me in different ways, but Flynn’s crime here is not only making the book boring to read, toxic characters or not, but also because there is no satisfaction in anything that happens. The reader is not rewarded for dealing with this story, nothing to reward us for getting to the end of this long and tedious book. I don’t need a happy ending, make it as messed up as you like, but there was frustration in that conclusion, not a decent conclusion to the nonsense I had to sit through.

Irony could have played a great part, karma, justice, all these things. Instead, we’re left with these characters who I hated from page one and hated even more by page 400. It just got worse and then even when it got interesting it was still terrible. The writing was terrible which makes you hate the story they were telling. They were both poorly written, poorly expressed, and I think even though Flynn tried to give Nick some emotional baggage, the fact it is poorly explored means it all comes to nothing.

Surprisingly, the audiobook was also a bit terrible, Heyborne’s odd emphasis of some words catch in your ear and every time he said “my wife” (which, again, poor writing, is said A LOT), he sounded like Borat. I couldn’t escape into the story because having it read aloud highlights the problems even more. There is repetition, both characters constantly compare things to how it’s done in a movie, and they whine. They might have been decent characters if their story was better written.

When I hit part two I groaned because there was another chunk of this book. But luckily it somehow it managed to get more interesting. Predictable, but interesting. I got the result I expected, I was impressed that Flynn went the direction she does, but it didn’t remove the issues. The fact Nick’s narration is infuriating, and the language Flynn uses is repetitive, sexist, and boring. Even in the “exciting” part it is boring and monotonous.

When Part Three came, I rolled my eyes and prepared myself for another long boring section of this book. I can see the plan to make the ending some tragedy, some Shakespeare tragedy for us to wallow over, but it didn’t work. I could think of three better endings for this book and I wish any of them had been picked. I know this is apparently a psychological thriller in concept, it is not in execution. How Flynn has managed to make this story unentertaining is beyond me. The framework is there for a thriller, you get inside character minds and see their motives which was intriguing, but it wasn’t enough to save the story.

You can purchase Gone Girl via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

 

The Women in Black by Madeleine St John

Published: 30th March 2009 (print)/10 September 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Text Publishing/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 233/5 hours 56 minutes
Narrator: Deidre Rubenstein
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Sydney in the late 1950s. On the second floor of the famous F.G. Goode department store, in Ladies’ Cocktail Frocks, the women in black are girding themselves for the Christmas rush. Lisa is the new Sales Assistant (Temporary). Across the floor and beyond the arch, she is about to meet the glamorous Continental refugee, Magda, guardian of the rose-pink cave of Model Gowns. With the lightest touch and the most tender of comic instincts, Madeleine St John conjures a vanished summer of innocence. The Women in Black is a classic.

This is a curious book. It was a decent read, the characters were all unique in their own way and yet have the wonderful conformity of the 1950s, and the era comes to life with St John’s words. I am caught between liking it and thinking it was just ok. Somewhere in the 2.5 star field because somehow I couldn’t give it a three.

If I stopped listening I found myself forgetting I was reading it at all. There was nothing in the story to get me back into it, and yet I didn’t hate it while I read it. I wasn’t bored per se, it’s just that nothing happens. I think it was the final third or even further when something happened that I finally got into it, and even then it’s not much. I think that was more the ending coming to a head so it felt conclusive.

This is a novel that is character driven, certainly more so than plot. I certainly have nothing against character driven novels, I think though that enjoyment comes from having characters that interest you so you want to read about their lives. I enjoyed Magda, and Lisa was endearing, but so few others piqued my interest. I felt two or three of these women took centre stage and felt more real than others which may have had something to do with it.

I did love the writing style. St John’s words are elegant and natural without being formal or unnecessarily complicated. The language puts you into this era and it separates the characters from one another with ease, almost so you don’t even notice it. This is emphasised by Rubenstein’s narration. Her use of voices and tone brought this story to life and highlighted St John’s beautiful words. There is slight humour but not enough to be a distraction, and the conversations are often humorous simply for their stark contrasts to modern times. This language was also why I enjoyed the ending. St John concludes this novel with style and it was a seamless ending that suited the characters she had created. There was a heartfelt sentimentality that gave extra meaning to all that had come before it, all through the characters she uses to bring this story together.

Oddly enough, I also found the obituary at the end of my audiobook quite enjoyable. I enjoyed listening about St John and her life from someone who knew her. It was interesting too because I learnt that the book was actually published in 1993. I was impressed because St John captures the language and the feel of the 50s remarkably well. It didn’t feel forced or over the top and there was class and charm in her words that she managed to recreate the era remarkably well.

I will be interested in the movie now (retitled Ladies in Black) because I would like to see how they portray this, if not for the story, but to see these wonderful cocktail frocks for myself.

You can purchase The Women in Black via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

Previous Older Entries