August 18th, 2009


The Time Traveller's Wife

I had popcorn and two pints of beer for dinner last night, because lidocafe and I went to see a movie, and then debriefed it (and of course discussed many other things) at a quite nice pub afterwards.

Those of you who have read and loved the book of The Time Traveller's Wife, as both lidocafe and I had, can be reassured that it's not a travesty. It is a respectful adaptation, trimming the book to its main storyline. The two leads are lovely, and we were also both particularly impressed with the children who played Claire as a child and Alba, Henry and Claire's daughter.

Although it captures the romantic core story of the book, it misses the novel's complexity. We lose the sense of how devastating Henry's condition is to him - in some ways it is treated almost like a joke or a novelty, not the real curse that it is. Some of the time paradoxes seemed more blatant - I don't remember if this was something that I just didn't notice in the book or if some of the changes made things worse. Obviously, the movie also loses the rich layers of intertextuality: art, poetry and music are both essential elements in the novel that are mentioned but not developed in the movie. On the other hand, the faithfulness of the adaptation makes the movie lose some identity or even coherence of its own as a movie; lidocafe makes the point in her own comment on it that those who had not read the book, as we had, might have found it confusing.

I am not sorry I saw it - it was a pleasant way to spend an evening. I did not feel that it was in any way a violation of the book; if anything, it reminded me what a lovely experience reading it had been and made me want to read it again. I'm not sure whether to recommend it to anyone who has NOT read the original, however - you might find the movie confusing and silly, and I would hate it to put you off reading the novel.
gorey books

Gullstruck Island

I have lady_schrapnell to thank for recommending Gullstruck Island, by Frances Hardinge. I don't think, had I judged it by its cover, that I would have picked it up otherwise. Thank heavens for lady_schrapnell!!

This is a completely wonderful fantasy adventure, everything you'd want in such a book: it's fun, challenging, thoughtful, exciting, original, enchanting.

It was a burnished, cloudless day with a tug-of-war wind, a fine day for flying. And so Raglan Skein left his body neatly laid out on his bed, its breath as slow as a sea swell, and took to the sky.

How could you resist such a beginning? And what follows doesn't disappoint.

First, it is a completely original world, populated with people such as the Lace, who decorate their teeth with shells and smile when they are distressed. Or there are the Lost, who can leave their bodies and travel, using their senses independently "like snails eyes on stalks." Then there are the Cavalcaste people, the Colonizers, who are aliens, but the ones with power. Gullstruck Island is perhaps loosely New Zealand, but not quite anywhere except itself. Any analogy between Europeans and Maori is not heavy-handed at all and only serves to add depth to the intense and thoughtful story.

The plot centers around Hathin, a Lace girl, and her sister Arilou, who may, or may not, be a Lost. When all the other Lost are mysteriously killed, Hathin and Arilou find themselves fighting for their lives, the focus of a relentless conspiracy. I love the way that Hardinge turns many of the conventions of adventure stories inside out - nothing is quite what you would expect, and everything is complex and subtle, beyond expectations.

It's just a terrific book, and you should read it. What more can I say?