Staff Choices: Books That Made Great Movies
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote, is both a classic short novel and iconic film. The movie is a product of a Hollywood on the brink of a new decade, teetering between the figurative black and white of the 1950s and the Technicolor of the 1960s. Complete with the gamine Audrey Hepburn, swathed in cigarette smoke and pearls, the film reinvisions a story written by a broken but brilliant man. Despite numerous differences, the wild nature of Holly Go-Lightly has the same flavor off the page and on the screen.
Uncluttered sentences and unpretentious language makes Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), an evocative and thoughtful read more than half a century after the initial publication. The memoir of running a coffee plantation, a dissentigrated marriage, British-influenced East Africa, and the native cultures of Kenya, Dinesen’s story is touching and luminous. The movie, made in 1985, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, is a romanticized, Hollywood version of the book, but Meryl is always worth watching!
In The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly. But lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town.
If you loved the movie, you’ll really love the book. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is clever, funny, scary and totally delectable. And, as is often the case, quite a bit different than the movie – much richer in detail and nuance. After reading this book with my children, we immediately when on to read the entire OZ series (yes there are approximately fifteen books in the series!) L. Frank Baum was truly a wizard.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. A classic book way before we ever considered Civil Rights. Gregory Peck was the quintessential Atticus Finch, just as Clark Gable will always be Rhett Butler. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, is another super favorite of mine.
I sat on the floor in a two-hour line to get tickets to see The Color Purple. I also devoured the book, by Alice Walker. I was appalled that Steven Spielberg was overlooked at the Academy Awards.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Both the film and novel leave one breathless with Atwood’s chilling dystopian vision. The movie and the book explore this with a vivid terseness that allows the audience to delve into the depths of their own imagination. Written in 1985 and made into a film in 1990, The Handmaid’s Tale is prophetic of the current craze for futuristic dystopian movies and novels, such as The Hunger Games phenomenon. In her novel, Atwood strikes a nerve that is both intimately shocking and de-humanized. In the movie, Robert Duvall’s role as “The Commander Fred” is a perfect portrayal – indelible and subtlety terrifying.
Atwood deals with the timeless struggle between a totalitarian society born of power and desperation; and matters of human nature and the heart. In this regard, like Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, one feels a fragile undercurrent of hope. Of all the books and movies I have had the pleasure to compare and contrast, I feel this one is the most well-matched, each one mirroring the other with insight, integrity, and stirring clarity.