Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book to Movie Club: The Shipping News

No, I'm not starting anything here! I've long envied my friend Stephanie, who belongs to such interesting groups! One is a "Book-to-movie" club where they intentionally read and discuss the book, then go see the movie and discuss it. Since this all occurs in another state, I can't join them. So, I tried it on my own. Now, we've all done this before--albeit not intentionally. I could go on for hours about how so many of my favorite books were ruined by being made into movies! (And, I've had a few books I actually liked as well or better in the movie.) My first pick was a book that's been on my "to-read" list for years--The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx.

This book came back to my consiousness (and I decided to finally read it) when I read Dame Judi Dench's autobiography, And Furthermore..., which I reviewed HERE. I'd probably be willing to watch Judi Dench read the phone book--that's how much I like her.

The book (spoilers):

I nearly balked when I discovered the author had written a book I threw to the far back of the car--it was that awful to me. And, this book indulges in one of my biggest pet peeves about novels, i.e., the use of weird names for characters (and EVERYONE in this book has a weird name), and was at first ready to toss it. However, having no other audio book for my commute I stuck with it and was glad I did.

What a cast of characters!! The man's wife sells the kids to a child pornographer and is then killed in a car crash. (That also made me want to quit, but...) The clueless man, Quoyle, has also just lost his very abusive father only to have his father's sister, a lesbian yacht upholsterer who is herself drifting due to the lost of her beloved partner. Together with her old dog and his two daughters (happily rescued before anything could happen to them) the set out to rebuild there lives at the old family homestead in Newfoundland. Gradually, things fall into place and they find their respective niches, in a community frightening with family history and softened by the community of characters who receive them and care for them. (And, thankfully, the author kept to only one mention of Wyoming--in which she mentions that the name "Sky" is often used there to compare it with her character named "Wavey".)

The movie:

I didn't think Kevin Spacey "was" Quoyle. An excellent actor to be sure, but my mind saw Quoyle differently--bigger, a little sweeter. For simplicity the daughters were merged into one and a few other details were changed. Overall the story was pretty much intact. I loved the addition of flashbacks showing the house being pulled across the ice!!! And, I liked the way they treated the Agnes's (Judi Dench) new love interest as a something normal and with a character-age-appropriate introduction.

Somehow though I was left less than satisfied by the movie. Had I not read the book it parts would not have made sense. For example, in the book Quoyle recalls the endless abuse at the hands of his father and brother and learns of an unspeakable act committed by his father. In the movie it is his beloved daughter who taunts him a little or who echos on his wife's abuse. P watched it with me and was left really questioning what the guy's problem was since he did not know Quoyle had been abused all thru his childhood and teen years. We both LOVED the scenery!! I hope to go to Newfoundland some day and experience it first hand. So rugged like the far north of Scotland. The Shipping News starring Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench.


No surprise that I found the book to be way better. I really enjoyed doing this and decided I will pick a few of Stephanie's club's titles and read and watch them. I believe in doing intentional things like this to keep my brain healthy, to have new experience and just to try something new.


Susan said...

I read Shipping News in the past year and liked it as well ... several things here resonated; yeah, the annoying odd names (wasn't one of the kids named Sunny? Really?). I didn't think the movie Quoyle matched the Quoyle in my head, either. What sticks with me most from that book was the stark, bleak, setting. I might want to visit Newfoundland, but I definitely wouldn't want to live there!

Hopewell said...

Sunshine--and there's a girl who works in our library with that name!! The other was Bunny. I agree--I want to SEE Newfoundland, but doubt I'll be moving up there any time soon!