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The Importance Of The Adaptation

A photograph of a stack of film adaptations, DVD editions, taken outside

I got thinking about this subject whilst in the midst of compiling my thoughts about the way the recent film adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd used a certain strand of the source material (yet to be posted). I noticed how much more I end up thinking about a book and the story as a whole, and how much more likely I am to write more than one post if there’s a film to be seen. (When I say this I’m meaning film, singular – I’m yet to watch multiple adaptations but it’d be interesting to compare this whole concept when/if – likely when – that happens.

To summarise, watching adaptations – and, I suppose, hearing them on the radio, I’m just not familiar with them – gives you more to think about. It extends your experience of and with the book. It adds or even creates your personal dialogue with it, extending it from the original to other people’s interpretations. You’re able thus to compare and contrast your interpretation with others and see more opinions in action which can help you decide how much impact they might have had on the story or study possibilities. Your journey therefore doesn’t end on the final page. It may be that the interpretation isn’t the author’s (of course sometimes it will be, for example if the author is the script writer) but you’re still deep in the story.

Views are more broadly applied, though they may be limited by feature length. (This is an interesting topic in itself – what gets cut, what’s deemed most important to the director, how does it compare to your own opinions?)

And adaptations are another way of sharing the story with someone else. Whilst you can join readalongs, there’s a more immediate aspect, dare I say it’s more social than reading – you’re seeing exactly the same things, the same interpretation at the same time. You can have a movie night with friends, perhaps share the story by way of film with those who wouldn’t read the book. It might not be quite faithful to the book, but in most cases it will be enough.

The adaptation is often the widely-known version of the story where more will watch that than read the book. (Tara Sparling’s post on how many copies constitute a bestseller makes sobering reading.) Due to adaptation changes it can pay to watch the film so that you know exactly what others are relating to when they speak of it. Unless it’s a highly popular book more people will want to talk film and whilst it’s unfortunate that you can’t always persuade someone to read the book, it’s better than nothing, I think we’d agree.

There is just so much benefit in the adaptation. I find myself down far more research rabbit holes if I’ve a film to watch than if there’s ‘just’ a book and it just broadens the book horizon.

Do you like adaptations? What do they add to your reading?



October 17, 2016, 5:55 pm

I am mixed on adaptations. Some of them are really good, some of them are really bad. Some help me see the book in a new light and others change the story so much it becomes unrecognizable. So it all depends :)


October 17, 2016, 11:07 pm

I love adaptations as long as they don’t invent material. I understand that not everything can be included and I’m okay with streamlining and compression, but distorting a character or inventing new plot twists really bothers me. For example, I love The Woman in White, but quit watching the the latest adaptation because it distorted the characters horribly.

Laurie @ RelevantObscurity

October 17, 2016, 11:31 pm

I have a real love-hate relationship with film adaptations. There are so few I have seen that stood up to the book, because one of the most loved parts of reading for me is a character’s thought process, which is difficult to adapt to film, for obvious reasons.

One really good one comes to mind, though and that’s Fahrenheit 451. I think there is so much good in the film and though it captured so much attention as a novel, it did well, that is its message was spread, over a wider audience as a film.

Recently, I watched a horrendous adaptation of H.G. Wells’, The War of the Worlds, a favorite book of mine. Released in 1953, it bore almost no resemblance to the book, except for an invasion from Mars. It was set in California of all places and reminded me of a typical 1950s sci fi film masquerading as Cold War propaganda. To make matters worse, it was not even a well-made film and I doubt anyone not familiar with the book would have been excited to check it out.

Thanks for asking…I had to get that Wells’ adaptation off my chest!


October 18, 2016, 8:40 pm

I love adaptations…although you may already have noticed that :-P What I enjoy about them is experiencing the same story through a different medium. I hadn’t thought about it before but I also agree that an adaptation is more social.


October 19, 2016, 3:13 pm

Stefanie: Have to agree with that last one – if it’s unrecognisable is it still really an adaptation? It kind of is, but not in the way a fan of the original would use the term.

Jane: Agreed! I’ve not yet read that book; I’ll keep what you’ve said in mind.

Laurie: Yes to that. It can sort of work if a first person narrative is used but they never use it enough – understandably I suppose – or change the words for no apparent good reason. I’ll keep Fahrenheit 451 in mind for when I get to it.

I wonder if that’s a specific reason the Tom Cruise version was made – do you think that likely? (I haven’t read the book yet or seen either film.) You saying California, I have to say I’m really not sure about The Girl On The Train. Why move the setting?

Jessica: I may have, yes ;) That’s a very good point about medium, it can offer a lot more variation and possibility without necessary changing anything (even if films often do). Yes, I suppose I’m thinking of people watching a film together, at home specifically, being able to pause and discuss in the moment, whereas pausing and discussing a book… it’s easier to wait until afterwards. And neither is better than the other; films are just more instant.

Laurie @ RelevantObscurity

October 19, 2016, 7:23 pm

I just discovered that my library has the Tom Cruise film, so I will find out soon enough :)


October 22, 2016, 11:39 am

Laurie: You’ll have to let me know!



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