What is a novel you loved, which did not disappoint when you saw it as a movie?
The one that comes to my mind is To Kill a Mockingbird.
This black and white film had "real" southern children as actors, perfect casting of Gregory Peck as Atticus, an authentic setting, accuracy in scene after scene directly from the novel, and Scout's voice narrating from a future time frame, as it does in the novel.
I mention film adaptations of novels because last night my husband and I watched The Bookshop based on Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel. Mike had not read it. Nor has he read Lolita and Fahrenheit 451, two novels purposely used in The Bookshop. This morning I asked Mike for his thoughts on the movie. Had he liked it? He had. Did he find Florence Green sympathetic as a character? He did, remarking on her kindness. "She was only angry once…at the General."
He thought the plot was a game of chess, with Grand Dame Mrs. Gamart as the Queen, moving her pawns around the board, making everyone in the village do what she wanted, in order to defeat Florence Green and her bookshop. "She plowed over everyone," Mike said. At the end Florence sails away from Hardborough and sees on the dock, her former assistant, Christine. This cheeky young girl has set fire to the old house that was Florence's bookstore. "She did it for justice," Mike said, and he liked the ending.
It is not how the novel ends, I had to tell him! Yet the movie's final scene has a resonance with both Fahrenheit 451 (in which firemen burn books) and Lolita, which until Nabokov removed it, had a fire at the end. No doubt The Bookshop had to end with an action for movie goers. In the novel, Florence's car has been repossessed, along with her books, and she leaves the village by bus, then takes a train onward. No specific destination is given except Liverpool Street.
In my copy of The Bookshop is an introduction by David Nicholls, written before the film was made. He stated the novel could make a fine film, but "would have to take on board the author's refusal to provide easy and comforting answers." He goes on to say, " the final sentence is one of the saddest I've ever read. Quietly devastating, like the novel itself." Yet the movie goer gets a moment to cheer Christine's action, improbable as it seems in a seaside village in 1960 where the Queen still reigns.
Next week: As promised last week… At Freddie's, Fitzgerald's fifth novel.