Book-to-movie adaptation | My Sister’s Keeper

rating-4-stars

“Having a child who is sick is a full-time occupation. Sure, we still enjoy the usual day-to-day happinesses of family life. Big house, great kids, beautiful wife. But beneath the exterior, there are cracks, resentments, alliances that threaten the very foundation of our lives as at any moment our whole world could come tumbling down.” (00:04:55-00:05:21).

Warning, warning: spoiler alert for both book and movie.

I basically spent last night looking at a screen choked up and crying, because I wanted to discuss the book-to-movie adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper on my blog. I first watched the movie when it came out in 2009. I read the book and did a book review of My Sister’s Keeper two weeks ago. Since I watched the movie before I read the book, my perception of the movie adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel is not entirely unbiased. There are many small distinctions between the book and movie, but I will focus on three major ones.

Short synopsis: Young Anna has undergone countless of procedures to help save her older sister Kate. Kate has been battling leukemia since she was two. Anna is a designer baby conceived in order to be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna’s life and that of her entire family revolve around Kate’s health. When Kate needs one of Anna’s kidneys to survive, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body with the help of lawyer Campbell.

One of the major contrasts between the book and movie for me was the portrayal of family life. The movie shows a warm family that would give up the world for each other. Kate’s disease influences the family tremendously, but they are still able to create happy memories. The movie deals with heavy themes; yet Anna and Kate’s friendship, the tight-knit family, Kate’s first boyfriend, the light music and warm memories all lighten the load and keep the tone for the most part upbeat and hopeful. In the novel however the Fitzgerald family is entirely disconnected. There aren’t many cuddly moments: Anna’s mom’s only concern is Kate’s survival; Anna’s father seeks refuge in his job; both parents gave up on Anna’s older brother; and Anna seems at times invisible to her parents. The family is broken.

Another obvious difference is the absence of Julia in the movie. Consequently we miss out on an entire storyline: the complicated relationship between Julia and Campbell. A parallel can be drawn between Anna/Kate’s relationship and Julia/Campbell’s relationship. Both Kate and Campbell feel their existence restricts the lives of the people they love and therefore make a decision to remove themselves from the lives of those loved ones.

Finally the most notable difference is the ending. The movie is clear from the start that Kate’s death is inevitable; Kate’s death does not come as a surprise. In the book, Anna is declared brain dead after a car accident; Kate receives Anna’s kidney and goes into remission. The ending of the book is convenient; since Anna is left brain dead, no difficult decisions have to be made regarding Anna’s and Kate’s future. I personally prefer the ending of the movie; it conveys a more realistic outcome.

All in all, the book is wonderfully written and the movie tells a heartbreaking story. It is a nicely done adaptation.  They do differ, but I was gripped by both. The movie depicts many of the major themes of the novel though obviously not in the same depth.

My Sister’s Keeper. Directed by Nick Cassavetes, performances by Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, and Joan Cusack. New Line Cinema, 2009.

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Book review | The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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rating-5-stars

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me” (53).

The quote above immediately convinced me to buy The Name of the Wind. This book did not let me down. From the moment I read the opening with “a silence of three parts” I was hooked (1). Not many fantasy books have left an impression on me as Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. If I could only use one word to describe this book ‘epic’ would do nicely. I read this book many years ago when it was just published. I recently reread it, since rumours about the third instalment of this series popped up and I wanted to refresh my memory.

The Name of the Wind is not just a book about a magician. It tells the life of Kvothe: from travelling with his family’s troupe to attending the University. The novel is focused on Kvothe’s music, studies, romances and search for a mysterious and evil group. Magic is only a small part of Kvothe’s world; still it is always subtly present. This book is well-thought-out, unpredictable and never boring. Things I hope will happen do happen, but often not in the way I expected.

What strikes me most in Patrick Rothfuss’ novels is the storytelling. The Name of the Wind is a story in a story. Kvothe himself is the narrator of the legend of Kvothe. When reading this book it is not hard to imagine yourself sitting at a campfire listening to this storyteller. It is the kind of story that gets you to tears, puts a smile on your face and leaves you feeling abandoned when you reach the last page.

Before you decide to pick up this book I must warn you: Patrick Rothfuss is without a doubt a slower writer than George R.R. Martin. The Name of the Wind was published in 2007. Its sequel The Wise Man’s Fear was published in 2011. I’ve been patiently waiting for the next part of the Kingkiller Chronicle. If this amount of time is needed to deliver an excellent book I don’t mind the wait. I am hoping for a release date soon though.

Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind. London: Gollancz, 2007.

Book review | My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

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rating-4-stars

“It made me wonder, though, what would have happened if Kate had been healthy. […] Certainly I would not be part of this family. See, unlike the rest of the free world, I didn’t get here by accident. And if your parents have you for a reason, then that reason better exist. Because once it’s gone, so are you” (8).

My parents’ neighbours have a little free library that they roll outside every morning and roll back inside every evening. It is mostly full of Dutch books of every genre imaginable. However I did find an English copy of My Sister’s Keeper a few months ago. Since I was impressed by the movie, I was really happy I got my hands on this book.

Most of you will probably be familiar with the plot, but I will give a short synopsis anyway. Thirteen-year-old Anna has undergone countless of procedures to help save her older sister Kate. Kate has been battling leukemia since she was two. Anna is a designer baby conceived in order to be a bone marrow donor for Kate. Anna’s life and that of her entire family revolve around Kate’s health. When Kate needs one of Anna’s kidneys to survive, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body.

The plot is of course major tearjerker material. The novel depicts a family that was broken long before Anna made her claim. Yet, though it is a heart-wrenching story, I didn’t get as emotionally involved as I expected to be. This might be because of the story going back and forth in time and the numerous switches between characters’ voices. Still at times I had to swallow my tears. All characters are well-rounded and realistically portrayed. It is not difficult to imagine yourself in their shoes.

My Sister’s Keeper is written from multiple perspectives: Anna, Anna’s older brother, her mother, her father, her lawyer and her guardian who helps her during her court process. It is clear from the start that none of these voices can be trusted. Anna herself warns the reader: “you shouldn’t believe what you hear about me, least of all that which I tell you myself” (10). A major theme in this novel is therefore doubt. While reading, I had so many questions. What are the characters really thinking? Who is telling the truth? What secrets are the characters keeping? What is the right decision? As a reader you almost feel like you are the judge; you have to make up your own mind about what is right and what is wrong.

Jodi Picoult did an amazing job raising a big moral problem. How far are parents allowed to go in order to save a child? Is a child able to make a decision that will affect her entire life and will end the life of someone she loves? The ending of this novel surprised me. Although a verdict was reached and Anna came to a conclusion, the consequences never actually came to pass. It keeps you pondering about the what ifs. This is a fascinating book.

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. New York, London, Toronto & Sydney: Washington Square Press, 2004.

Book review | After You by Jojo Moyes

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rating-3-stars

“You didn’t give me a bloody life, did you? Not really. You just smashed up  my old one. Smashed it into little pieces. What am I meant to do with what’s left?” (8).

Me Before You made me smile and got me to tears. I was really fond of Lou and her family. After the novel’s devastating ending, I was very curious about how the characters’ lives would turn out. I therefore absolutely love that Jojo Moyes wrote a sequel. If you haven’t read Me Before You, please stop reading now and check out my Me Before You book review.

After You basically picks up eighteen months after where Me Before You leaves off. Although after Will ended his life Lou travelled a little, she now works in an airport bar and lives in a flat in London. She is shattered by what happened. Then one evening she finds someone on her doorstep who might change her life. Will Lou be able to pick up the pieces? Will she be able to open her heart again, take risks and truly live?

I expected After You to be a success story of how Lou with some difficulties fulfilled her dreams. I imagined it to be kind of similar to the ending of Titanic where several pictures show us how Rose after Jack’s death lived a full life. When Lou reads Will’s letter in Paris at the end of the first book, her life seems to have a lot of happily ever after potential.  If I hadn’t read After You, I probably would have envisioned Lou having many wonderful experiences. Yet After You shows us life with all its problems and perks. We learn how Lou, her family and Will’s family have a hard time coping with Will’s choice and how his choice influences their lives.

Although After You is nowhere near as good as Me Before You, I really enjoyed it. I loved reading about Lou with her quirks and insecurities again. There were certain aspects of the novel I didn’t like. For example, I had trouble with Lily’s rebellious behaviour and the book might have been too heavy with sorrow. If you kind of liked the first book, I don’t recommend the sequel. However if you, like me, loved the characters of Me Before You, you will find After You a very satisfying read.

Moyes, Jojo. After You. UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa: Penguin Books, (2015) 2016.