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July 20, 2014 | by  | in Arts Books |
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Don’t Tell Me It’s Not Like the Book

“Yeah, but the book’s better.” A phrase heard only too often. A phrase you’ve probably uttered before in an attempt to appear literate. It’s okay, we’ve all done it. It’s humanity’s secret shame. “I am more literate than you because I read a book before it got turned into a film.” The thing we always seem to forget is that books and films are two different mediums. There is no such thing as a perfect adaptation. Nor should there be.

The first stories to be adapted into film are believed to be Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm and Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in 1899 and 1900 respectively. Since then, both these stories have had countless adaptations. Sherlock Holmes has had at least three in the past decade. Clearly, it isn’t a bad thing to have a book turned into a film; otherwise, it wouldn’t keep happening. Why not adapt a book? It’s already got a story and characters that people like.

The Fault in Our Stars is a book by the very fashionable young-adult author John Green, a man more famous for his metaphors than his stories. The novel follows two teenagers, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, who fall in love and say things like “hamartia”. More to the point, Hazel has cancer and Augustus once did. In a desperate bid to find out what happens to the characters of their favourite book after it has ended, they venture to Amsterdam to meet their favourite author. Self-referencing at its finest. I enjoyed the book a lot.

However, I was pretty disappointed in the film. I know – sorry! Whether this is because I am older than the target audience or because I wasn’t altogether happy with some of the artistic visions, I’m not sure. It may even be because Green’s words are nicer to read than to hear. “I’m in love with you and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things” doesn’t sound quite right when said aloud. But films and books are different mediums, right? The cinematography made sense in terms of film. I didn’t not like the film because I thought the book was better, that’s for sure.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t write off films because they aren’t as good as the book. Write them off because the cinematography is bad (or whatever). Film adaptations of books are great. They’re bringing the characters you love to life. They’re making your characters real; people who love and suffer as much as you do. The magic of fiction isn’t lost in film. Film is magical. Love your favourite book. But don’t ever let me know I’m not a real fan because I haven’t read it.


  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

  2. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

  3. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

  4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

  5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)


Anna, English lecturer
“Charles Martindale on aestheticism and the classics (why not talk about beauty?), James Elkins on Why Art Cannot Be Taught, JK Rowling as Robert Galbraith, and just finished Terry Castle’s The Professor.”

Ashleigh, VUP editor
“I’ve just finished Breton Duke’s new book Empty Bones which was grim as all heck, but great. And The Night We Ate the Baby by Tim Upperton is the best poetry book I’ve read this year, to be published soon.”

Sebastian, English and Art History student (and published novelist)
“I’ve been reading & Sons by David Gilbert – a really interesting multi-perspective story about a reclusive novelist and his estranged family.”

Nina, Salient Books Editor
“I’m reading Rough On Women by Margaret Sparrow, an eye-opening history of abortion in 19th-century New Zealand. And I’ve just started reading my first ever Oscar Wilde novel which is, unsurprisingly, full of rich men with glossy hair sauntering languidly.”


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