Classic Book to Screen Adaptation

It’s Friday, and you know what that means!

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Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.

The topic this week is:

Recommend a classic book that you think translated particularly well to screen (even if the adaptation was not entirely faithful).

First, I’ll get some honorable mentions out of the way: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (truest in script, but not in setting or era), Pride and Prejudice (yes, the one with Keira Knightly – fight me), Oliver & Company (Oliver Twist but it’s an animated adventure with animal main characters… what more do you want?), and of course The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nothing else has been so epic in scale, score, costuming, or cinematography as that last. The incredible attention to detail taken in every aspect of these films was about as breathtaking as the settings. So why didn’t I choose it as my answer?

I’m trying to branch out. I thought to answer something that maybe everyone hasn’t seen to give them something new(ish) to binge watch.

My pick is a television adaptation of a classic – one of many that have been made from this same source material, in fact. And most definitely not the most faithful adaptation.

I adore Elementary, and that’s my pick for today. This adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is my absolute favourite, standing far above the rest in my opinion. While Sherlock BBC and House are certainly enjoyable to watch, they can’t beat Elementary.

This modern take on Sherlock stars Jonny Lee Miller as our disreputable detective, and the setting is modern day New York City. I think he embodies the genius and rudeness of Holmes without going overboard – and it feels true and excellent. Sherlock is a former consultant to Scotland Yard, who now assists the NYPD in solving especially tricky crimes. He’s also a recovering drug addict.

Enter Dr. Joan Watson, played by the ever-talented Lucy Liu. She is hired by Sherlock’s father to be his live-in sober companion, following him and making certain he doesn’t have a relapse. She is quickly drawn into the strange madness that is Holmes’ life. She grows as a character throughout the seasons, and she is my favourite Watson.

I adored what this show did with Moriarty’s character, and I hope that you’ll love it too. Do NOT look it up and ruin it for yourself, you will have such regret.

Have you watched Elementary – do you agree or disagree with my pick? How do you feel about other Sherlock adaptations? Which is your favourite?

Let me know in the comments below!

Children’s Classic I Loved As a Kid

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Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.

The question this week is:

What children’s classic couldn’t you read enough when you were growing up?

Before I answered this question, I frantically googled whether or not Harry Potter counted as a children’s classic. Determining that it did not, the answer became clear.

I adored Black Beauty as a kid.

I read it over and over again, often crying from the very beginning because I already knew what was going to happen. I was never particularly attracted to tragic stories, but this one absolutely captivated me.

I grew up on a farm, but to my chagrin we never had horses. I always wished for them and I loved visiting friends who had them. We had donkeys and a mule (who was the meanest creature ever), and I used to talk to the donkeys as if they could understand me while I brushed them. I’m still a little convinced that they could.

Black Beauty was a book that really affected the way I thought about animals. It was the first book I read with anthropomorphic characters, and I still to this day think of animals as beings with thoughts and feelings like my own. Objectively, I know that the human brain operates differently than animal brains, and that animals like snakes are incapable of love… but I can’t quite shake the feeling that animals can understand me and feel the way that I feel.

It also opened the door for me to other books with anthropomorphic characters. I went on to read and enjoy Watership Down, Narnia, Warrior Cats, and countless others.

Not only did Anna Sewell write an excellent story, she touched millions of lives as well. She died five months after its publication, but lived to see Black Beauty become a success. It sold millions of copies, and readers were so outraged at the treatment of horses that actual changes in law took place because of it. The punishing use of the bearing rein was outlawed in Victorian England, and taxicab fees for drivers were greatly reduced as well.

Black Beauty wasn’t written for children. Sewell wrote it so that people would understand the plight of horses – and she succeeded greatly.

If you’ve never read it you’re really missing out on a fantastic classic.

What children’s classic did you pore over as a kid?

Classic Remarks: Recommend A Tolkien Book

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Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.

I decided to join in this week because the question is about Tolkien!

Which Tolkien book would you recommend to a reader after they’ve finished reading ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’?

I think this question isn’t as straightforward as simply recommending a book. First, you have to find out what the reader most enjoyed about the Tolkien they’ve already read. Did they love the accessibility of the Hobbit, in my opinion a very non-pretentious high fantasy? Or maybe they loved Tolkien’s creation of languages and cultures in LOTR and wish to learn more about Middle Earth? Maybe they just love high fantasy epics and are looking to slake their thirst with a story packed with interesting characters performing heroic deeds?

Luckily, there’s a recommendation for each of those questions!

For readers who loved the accessibility of The Hobbit I would recommend Tales from the Perilous Realm. The five stories within have the kind of whimsy that I loved in The Hobbit, and I think it’s a wonderfully fun read.

For readers looking to learn more about Middle Earth but still seeking a story, The Silmarillion is my recommendation. Here, the reader gets to explore some of the fascinating history of Middle Earth. I’ve seen a few reviews in which the writer stated they approached reading The Silmarillion as if it were The Bible or a historical text, and that is absolutely the way to view it. Extremely worth it if you’re interested in the subject, but undeniably a bit dry.

For those wanting to read an epic tale, I would recommend The Children of Hurin. A captivating book, it will certainly deliver a story worth reading. This is really not a happy book – it very much reads like a Greek tragedy. What can go wrong will do so in terrible ways, but for those that are willing to cry on public transit the payoff of a great story is all that’s needed.

There you have it, three Tolkien recommendations that I think encompass his tales of Middle Earth quite completely! Though he did of course write on other subject matter, and many more volumes of his work were published posthumously, I think that with these three novels the door is opened to those seeking more of Tolkien’s work.

If readers continue to seek out his work, I’ll be waiting here with even more recommendations.

What would you recommend?