During my 9th grade year, I was assigned to read and report on Pride and Prejudice over Christmas break. I procrastinated until the final weekend of the holiday, and frantically ran to the city library. While checking out the book, the kindly librarian asked if I’d ever seen the 1940 Laurence Olivier/Greer Garson adaptation of the novel. Thinking I had just scored an easy way out of my assignment, I grabbed the movie as well. One trip home, a bowl of popcorn, and ninety minutes later, I was writing my report.
The next morning, I felt guilty for not following the assignment (yes, I was one of *those* students). I determined I could at least start reading the book so I wouldn’t feel like such a cheater. A mere five chapters in and I knew I’d made a bigger error than not reading the book: I’d picked a movie that was basically nothing like the novel upon which it was supposedly based, save for its title and character names.
I read hurriedly and not altogether carefully, but soaked up enough information to write a bare-bones essay. Two lessons were learned that Christmas break: don’t procrastinate, and don’t trust a movie.
Ironically, I’ve kept a date with Jane every Christmas since. It’s my annual holiday treat to myself to read through Pride and Prejudice, then watch the 1995 adaptation. I chase this with the 2005 adaptation because I could listen to Matthew Macfadyen recite the ingredients on a cereal box.
Oh – there’s one more thing I learned to do. It’s pretty unconventional and probably considered blasphemous: I sometimes read books *after* I see their movie. For some reason, I can appreciate the well-made movies that aren’t not completely faithful to canon as long as I don’t know the canon going in. This plan has allowed me to enjoy North and South, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Hobbit. If, however, I read the book first and then try to sit through a less-than-accurate adaptation…well…it’s nothing but a big bowl of disappointment. I’m talking to you, The Scarlet Letter (1995), The Great Gatsby (2013), and Water for Elephants.
Read on and weigh in with your opinion on Mimi Matthews terrific post about accuracy and adaptations…