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This blog was featured on 08/10/2018
The Pros and Cons of Book Adaptations: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Written by
She Writes
August 2018
Written by
She Writes
August 2018

Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s historical fiction novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was recently released to Netflix audiences in the United States, receiving both positive and critical review. While getting your book optioned for film is the goal of many authors, book adaptations don’t always get glowing reviews. While people notoriously have used the phrase, “The book was better than the movie,” sometimes the two serve as separate entities entirely as is the case for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. No matter the adaptation here’s a few of the ways that books both benefit and falter due to their movie counterpart.

Losing Story Details

The female writers behind The Word Wenches recently reviewed the movie, telling their readers not to read the book before seeing the movie as the film adaptation’s missing details can distract viewers from the beauty of the actual movie:

“My advice, if you haven't read the book, or it's a long time since you read it (like me) is don't read it before you go to see the movie. Just sit back and let the gorgeousness of the movie wash over you. If you reread the book before you watch it, you'll be distracted by thoughts like "But it didn't happen like that in the book" and “No, that's wrong.”

“But it's inevitable that a movie that's an adaptation from a novel is bound to be different. So much of a novel simply cannot be shown in a two-hour movie. It's like the difference between the various movie versions of Pride and Prejudice, and the TV series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth — a series being the only way one could do any justice to the novel.”

Bringing the Story to Life

Oftentimes, readers have an image in their head when they read a new book— what the characters would look like, the colors of the city surrounding them and other countless details that play out on the pages of a book. Bringing a book to the big screen means giving readers the chance to see some of their favorite stories come to life and the U.K.’s Telegraph reports that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society adaptation did just that:

“Mike Newell’s adaptation of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s epistolary novel is a film you don’t spend time with so much as spend time in: every location in this irresistible romantic mystery is like a little mini-break for the soul, every costume and piece of set-dressing nibble-ably gorgeous, and every character a pleasure to keep company with, even the rotters.”

Enhancing Character Flaws

Authors have a way of getting their readers invested in their characters and with the intense amount of details within a book, it’s easy to feel a certain way about a character, whether good or bad. When you spend so much time with a character, it makes sense that you believe every word they say or to put faith in their actions. In film adaptations, however, the small amount of screen time and altered scripts leave room for misunderstood characterization. While many readers love James and Huisman’s relationship in the novel, movie viewers were not as convinced. Upon reviewing the movie, Variety seemed to be less than impressed:

“Less happily, James and Huisman — both appealing, personable performers in their own right — never quite spark as a pairing, their supposed soul connection playing largely as polite rapport. If James carries proceedings with amiable pluck, “Game of Thrones” star Huisman is less comfortably cast in these twinkly surrounds.

“At least everyone looks splendid in costume designer Charlotte Walter’s perfectly cinched 1940s fashions...”

Expanding An Author’s Audience

No matter how popular a book may be, film adaptations reach new audiences that authors have never had before. For those who aren’t entrenched in the world of new releases and the best new books, movies bring attention to stories that people may like but wouldn’t have ever found otherwise. After learning that a movie was based on a book, viewers become much more apt to purchase and read the book—especially when there’s a movie tie-in edition featuring the cast of the movie. Not only does this boost book sales, but it also introduces the author’s work to a new audience who could end up supporting later releases as well. If co-authors Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer weren’t on people’s radars before, they definitely will be after seeing The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix.

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