Books Before Movies

We have a loose policy that if the kids want to see a movie based on a book they read the book first. Well, really just The Muse, since Dolittle’s just starting to read. I say “loose” because there have been a few recent exceptions. Huck Finn was one – the language is a bit much for The Muse to enjoy, and when we started to listen to it on CD, the “n-word” was too much to hear out loud, so we tabled the book and watched the movie instead. (No n-words in the movie.) The last Narnia movie was another exception, simply because of timing and circumstance.

But generally, I want them to get the story pictured in their own imagination before seeing how others interpret it. I like to do that myself as well. Unfortunately, that can result in disliking the movie because it’s so different than you pictured, but that in itself is good fodder for discussion.

I really want to go see the Jane Eyre movie. I’ve never read it (along with about a hundred other classics, I’m ashamed to say). So thanks to a spiffy app on my iPhone, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre a bit each day. And I must say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I hate to admit it, but I don’t enjoy reading a lot of the classics (which is why there are about a hundred I have never read). I tried giving Jane Austen a shot this year, and even knowing the story of “Pride and Prejudice” (love the movies), I just didn’t really get into the book. I remember hating a few of the classics we read in high school (“The Deerslayer” still haunts me – I could not make it through that book. And “Heart of Darkness” didn’t really do much for me either. I wonder what I’d think of them now.). A book-loving friend of mine and I decided to try to read “Madame Bovary” together a couple of years ago. I didn’t make it through that, either. (Neither did she, which made me feel a bit better.)

To be fair, I loved “Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden.” I fell in love with Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” in college. So I’m not a total classics-hater. I just have to find ones that I can picture. I’ve found over the years that I can either picture a book in my mind or a can’t. If I can’t “see” the story by the time I’m into it a few chapters, I probably won’t.

I’m on chapter seven of “Jane Eyre” and I’m enjoying it immensely. I really like Charlotte Bronte’s writing and clear characters. It’s been a while since I’ve read a classic that I enjoyed reading as much as modern literature. I was expecting to have to grit through it, all the while reminding myself that I can’t expect the kids to hold to the books-before-movies idea if I won’t do it myself. So I’m very happy that it’s a truly good read.

Next up I think I’ll give Charlotte’s sister’s work a whirl and try “Wuthering Heights.” I’ll keep you posted.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 3

  1. I usually view books and movies as two separate mediums. I don’t think you can compare them at all, except as two types of media that tell stories. Keeping them separate in my mind helps me avoid “the book was better” feeling.

    The Jane Eyre movie is amazing — I’ve actually seen it twice now. And I love the book too. I think it has a very modern psychology.

  2. I might have to give Jane Eyre a try now. I am with you on the classics. Just because it is on a list does not mean it will appeal or should appeal to everyone.

    I always read a book first because I picture it so vividly in my head that I don’t want a movie to ruin the literature for me.

    My biggest mistake was reading one of my favorite books (“The House of Spirits), putting the completed book down, and then heading right to the movie theater to see it (a terrible production). It helps to put a little distance between the book and the movie).

    Is JE appropriate for my eldest? I am wanting to take her to the movie on a date.

  3. I loved Jane Eyre. Also The Chosen, Heidi, Laddie, and Little Britches. I’ve tried to read Sense and Sensibility and others like it, but never get far. Not all classics are created equal.

    About the book and movie thing, if I am completely carried away by the book I avoid the movie. I don’t want to ruin the lovely images in my head. I was so disappointed with The Education of Little Tree and The Color Purple I just say no now. But I wouldn’t want to watch the movie first, for the reason you offered. Good thing I don’t care much for television and movies.

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