20 October 2008

Persuade me

Each summer, as the semester winds down (or after it finishes really), I go into reading mode. That's not to say I don't read all year round -- I do. During the year, though, I don't read as much for the pure pleasure of reading. I do read the novels we're studying in class, submissions for Poetrix, student work, the papers and Time magazine, the back of the cereal box, texts on writing, blogs, poetry, the occasional novel or short story -- all sorts of things. But I don't get to devour novels the same way I do on holidays.

The last two summers have been themed. Two years ago it was Dan Brown. I had been determined not to read The Da Vinci Code because of all the hype. Rarely does the book (or movie or whatever) live up to the hype. But then a student subbed the first chapter (prologue really) with an analysis as part of an assignment, and I was hooked. I went out and bought the book (the lovely illustrated version) and read it in about 24 hours. My eyes were bugging out of my head. Then I went on a Brown hunt.

Last year, it was Matthew Reilly. (Hmm, I can see a plot-related theme running here -- both writers are masters of tight plotting with lots of twists and turns.) I had similarly avoided Reilly and thought it was time I gave him a try. I started with Ice station and had to follow this up with the other Scarecrow books. I'm not sure I'd start on his other books -- there are just so many writers out there that I likewise should dip into -- but if he writes any more Scarecrow ones, I'm there. And I'm sure his others are a great read. Don't study him for characterisation (there's not a lot), but do study him for plot because he's brilliant at it.

This year it's Austen. So, I've moved away from plot into character, into literary. And the thing that persuaded me to do this was the 2007 BBC version of Persuasion. Do I love that show, or what? The funny thing is that I was watching it on the ABC, and it was only when I got to the scenes on the Cobb in Lyme that I thought, I've seen this before. I remembered having loved it, but hadn't remembered what it was called. Obviously, what I'd seen before was the 1995 one.

Earlier this year, I had a Pride and prejudice obsession, having fallen in love with the Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen film. So, everyone else, you can keep your Colin Firths. I liked him as Mr Darcy until I saw Macfadyen and the vulnerability he brought to the role. Now, the old BBC series seems a bit overblown (though not the all-too-brief appearance of Tom Ward, of course!).

And now it's Rupert Penry-Jones (Adam in Spooks) as Captain Wentworth, and Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, who is not a modern hero in any sense of the word: not feisty but calm, reserved, angst-ridden, not proactive in getting what she wants. But perhaps she's more like me than Knightley's Elizabeth Bennet is, and so I can relate. I don't know. I do know that I've finally read Pride and prejudice and am now firmly ensconced in Persuasion. Already, I can see the writers have taken some liberties, but I have no problems with that (and in one sense they've made it a more modern telling by making things harder on Anne -- she misunderstands the situation surrounding Louisa's wedding far longer in the show than in the book, for example). 

A film adaptation is an adaptation and works best when people don't try to hold too religiously to the book. They're different media, so writers and fans shouldn't become overly precious or we might miss out on masterpieces like Lord of the rings, or the most modern adaptations of both Pride and prejudice and Persuasion.

And as far as my reading goes, I've got Emma lined up as well, and am thinking I must get Northanger Abbey and Sense and sensibility.


Ellen said...

can definitely recommend Northanger Abbey

Tracey said...

Thanks, Ellen. I did end up getting it and am currently reading it -- though only a few chapters in at this point!