Movie and Book: The Help

I remember when The Help came out and how everyone seemed to be reading it. Initially, I wasn’t interested in the story. I became a little bit more interested when the move came out. Then when Octavia Spencer won her Oscar for her roles in the film, I thought ‘well now I really have to see what all the fuss is about.’

ThehelpbookcoverI listened to The Help as an audio book (libraries for the win!). The Help is about the lives of a young white woman Skeeter and black maids Aibileen and Minny. The book begins with Skeeter returning from college and determined on becoming a writer. She lands a gig writing the domestic help column for the local newspaper. Through writing the column, she forms a friendship with Aibileen. Skeeter had a very close relationship with her own family’s maid (Constantine) growing up and decides to write a book about the maids’ experiences working for white families. With Aibileen and Minny’s help, the book becomes published and is called ‘The Help’.

I think when the book first came out, I was daunted by how long it was. The unabridged audiobook didn’t feel that long though. It was actually a lot of fun to listen to. The voice actors were fantastic and really embodied the characters. I loved that Octavia Spencer was the voice for Minny, the same role she played in the movie. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was part drama, part humor. There were literally parts that made me laugh out loud while listening to it. I would rate the book 4.5 out of 5.

help movieI felt that the movie was very close to the book. There was a few changes in the scenes and timing of things. Emma Stone was a little underwhelming as Skeeter. But Viola Davis, Allison Janney (playing Skeeter’s mother), and Bryce Dallas Howard (as the racist queen bee of the town) were fantastic in their roles. Octavia Spencer simply is Minny Jackson.

One of the issues I had with the movie was the pacing. The pacing of the movie was really awful as you did not realize how much time passed. In the book, several years pass. In the movie everything seems to happen in a matter of a couple months. I think that was an editing issue. My other big issue with the movie was Cecily Tyson playing the role of Constantine, Skeeter’s childhood nurse. Don’t get me wrong, Cecily Tyson is a fabulous actress and she has done some great pieces of film in her time. However, she did not fit the role of Constantine.

Although the movie was a decent adaptation, the movie lacked the same depth and soulfulness that the book possessed. I would rate it a 3 out of 5.

All Things Jane Eyre

One of my favorite books of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I like to call it “the book that doomed me to become an English major.” It feels like I read it for the first time only yesterday. I remember vividly being 16 and spending my summer days at my grandmother’s house, enjoying the cool air conditioning to avoid the 100 degree heat outside and physically not being able to put the book down. I remember falling in love with that book and rereading parts of it over and over and over again all summer long.

I was ecstatic when it was assigned reading in college 5 years later. I was worried that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remembered and maybe I changed too much to be able to appreciate it the same way. Luckily, it wasn’t the case. I felt like I was 16, falling in love with the book all over again. I passionately defended the haters of Mr. Rochester in my English class, to the point where the teacher pulled me aside and told me to tone it down. The scene where Jane has to leave Mr. Rochester breaks my heart. Every. Single. Time.

There have been MANY movie versions of Jane Eyre over the years and I doubt I will be able to watch them all (some of them you might not even be able to get on DVD and others might not be worth watching). There have been two recent adaptations of Jane Eyre that I recently enjoyed and wanted to share, a modern retelling novel and the most recent movie adaptation.

Jane BookFor those who don’t know the story of Jane Eyre, it is about a character named Jane Eyre and basically her life story. She is an orphan who is raised by her horrible aunt and mean spirited cousins. Her aunt ships her away to a religious school which ends up being just as terrible as her aunt’s. Despite it all, Jane grows up to be a pious, kind, caring, intelligent woman although often described as plain. She goes to work as a governess for the mysterious Mr. Rochester and then things start to get really interesting. Jane Eyre is a classic gothic fiction novel but also a love story woven in.

The novel Jane by April Lindner is a young adult modern retelling of Jane Eyre. Jane Moore drops out of college after the death of her parents to be a nanny employed by the mysterious, brooding, rock star Nico Rathburn about to make his comeback. I was dubious by a modern retelling as Jane Eyre is really a piece of literature that exists in the time period it was written for. I was convinced by my friend’s book review and decided I had to check it out  myself.

To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book, I started it late at night planning to only read a couple pages and instead finally went to sleep at dawn. I thought a successful modern interpretation of Jane Eyre would be impossible, but I was wrong. I loved it. Mr. Rochester as a modern rock star was ingenious and modern Jane was smart, strong, and endearing. I spent most of the book waiting to see if it was going to let me down in someway, but it never did. It gave me my Jane Eyre fix in a condensed, easy read version. I would rate it 5 out of 5.

Jane Eyre MovieI was excited when I learned a new move interpretation of Jane Eyre was being released in theaters. I really enjoyed the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice and hoped it would be as good. I was devastated when I missed it in theaters, but added it first thing to my Netflix queue.

The movie starred Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as Jane. I enjoyed the movie. I thought Mia embodied the awkwardness and plainness, but as well as the determination and strength of Jane. I wasn’t convinced with Michael’s portrayal of Mr. Rochester, but I thought he had good chemistry with Mia. Their interaction and banter were lines right out of the book which I enjoyed. The scenery for the movie was also beautifully done. The landscape and isolation of Thornfield was demonstrated well visually.

One of the really odd things about the movie was that it starts when she is leaving Mr. Rochester which is right in the middle of the novel. The timeline of the movie was very confusing in the beginning and shows a bunch of flashbacks. It picks up for awhile when Jane and Mr. Rochester meet and then becomes very confusing again when she leaves (which is where the movie initially started). For someone who might not be familiar with the story, they could get very confused. I have read the novel in it’s entirety at least twice and I was even confused at times.

The ending was very abrupt and unsatisfying, which I felt unnecessary as the novel has a complete ending. I also think the movie running time was a little short for the very lengthy novel to give it the depth that it needed. Despite those issues, I still enjoyed it and thought certain parts were done very well. I would rate it it 3.5 out of 5.

Movie and Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I love audio books.

It’s only been the last few years that I have gotten into audio books. I used to be one of those books snobs who would not be caught dead listening to an audio book. Then I started making an 16 hour drive round trip a few times a year, and I discovered the wonderful thing that were audio books.

Extremely_loud_and_incredibly_close_bookI picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as an audio book at the library (unabridged because that is the only way to go). I had heard the book was good but that was about it. I had no idea what the story really was about. I’m glad I picked it up. It is about a boy Oscar who has lost his father on Sept 11th in the World Trade Center. Although you don’t figure that out right away because all he calls it is “The Worst Day”. You learn the story of his father in pieces.

Oscar is a unique character with his own terminology of things. He comes across a key and is determined to find the lock that fits it as he believes that his father left it for him to figure out. He comes across many unique characters in his search. It’s a beautiful story well told in the voice of Oscar. My only problem with the book was the side story about Oscar’s Grandma and Grandpa. Oscar’s grandparents suffered the tragedies in World War II and it goes into their story along with Oscar’s journey until both storylines converge. One of the things I really liked about the audio book was that each character was voiced differently depending on whose perspective the chapter was in. The bad thing was there was too much of the grandparents story. I really liked Oscar and I wanted more of his story. I did not really care about the grandparents, especially Grandma. The ending also fell a little flat for such a well crafted story. I would rate the book 4 out of 5.

 

extremely-loud-and-incredibly-close-movieI was interested to see what they were going to do with the movie version and I had heard people rave about the movie. Tom Hanks plays the dad in flashbacks with Oscar and Sandra Bullock plays Oscar’s mom. I loved the little kid who plays Oscar. I thought he did a great job (although I don’t know why his eye color kept changing crazy colors).

One of the things I liked about it is that the movie is strictly from Oscar’s perspective and doesn’t involve the grandparents story hardly at all. The only scenes with the grandparents were their relationship with Oscar. I think I liked them better that way. However, you do lose a little bit of the context of the story. I thought it was a decent movie interpretation but it pales in comparison to rich detail of the book. And actually changes quite a few scenes and add some scenes that didn’t even happen in the book. One of my favorite characters from the book was completely cut from the movie. I understand why it was necessary, but I was still disappointed. There was a lot to put in there. The movie ended on a much more positive note than the book, but I wish the book had come up with it first as it would have been written better. I think I would rate the movie 3 out of 5.

Conclusion- I think it is one of those situations where if you watched the movie, you would be satisfied and thinks it’s amazing if you haven’t read the book. If you read the book, the movie will be somewhat of a disappointment. But don’t listen to this as an audio book while you are driving! There will be tears.

Nicholas Sparks-Part I

How much do I love Nicholas Sparks? Let me count the ways.

I randomly picked up my first Nicolas Sparks novel while I was bored at a family friend’s house. It looked intriguing. It was called The Rescue and to this day it is still one of my favorite Nicolas Sparks novels. (Fact: I have read all of Sparks’ novels including his Autobiography ‘Three Weeks with my Brother’).

Many of his books have been turned into movies, because his novels translate extremely well into movies. They’re heartfelt, chick flick, tear jerkers that readers and viewers can appreciate. A lot of people accuse him for being too sad and always having his characters die, which can be the case. However, tragedy can strike at any time and dying is a part of life. I think that’s what Sparks’ illustrates in his books, love and loss.

I thought of reviewing his most popular book/movie releases such as The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, but I actually watched those movies before reading the books so I have very different opinions about them. I decided to go with the books I had read first before seeing their movie counterparts. The ones I will be reviewing are Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Dear John.

One of the things I like about Nicholas Sparks is that not all of his books are about young, summer love. He depicts romance across all ages, including those who might be past their prime and get a second chance at romance. Nights in Rodanthe is one of those. Adrienne has been abandoned by her husband and takes the opportunity to get away and tend to her friend’s bed and breakfast. Paul is a successful surgeon, also divorced, and the B&B’s only guest. In preparation of a storm about to hit, the two fall in love.

It’s really a story about two people who have broken down and find each other amidst a storm. When I read it, it wasn’t one of my favorites. Maybe I was too young to appreciate the older and divorced pain that the two have gone through. One of the big differences in the movie was Adrienne’s husband asking her if they can get back together, which becomes a theme through the movie as she ponders the question.

Richard Gere is getting old but I still think he’s super sexy in the movie. Diane Lane was brilliant as well. I liked their chemistry together. I would say that I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I would give the book a 3 out of 5 and the movie a 3.5 out of 5.

The Last Song is about Ronnie (Veronica) and her younger brother living with her estranged dad for the summer, finding first love, and saving the sea turtles. The book was well written, seamlessly plotted, and poignantly told. All the characters were fully developed and evolved throughout the novel. It’s one of my favorites by Nicholas Sparks. (Fact: Most of Nicholas Sparks’ books are my favorite).

I was really hesitant about the movie because Miley Cyrus was playing Ronnie. I didn’t think she could pull off the depth of Ronnie’s character and growth that she goes through in the novel. Much to my delight, the basic storyline was very similar to the book and I felt myself drawn into the story. Greg Kinnear, who played her dad, was fantastic. Although I still think Ronnie should have been recast, Miley Cyrus was not as terrible as I imagined. I enjoyed Liam Hemsworth as the leading man as well. They obviously have great chemistry together.

The movie was a very decent adaptation of the book, despite some minor plot changes. I think the book though was much more enjoyable and included less Miley Cyrus. I would give the book a 4 out of 5 and the movie a 3 out of 5.

Dear John

Dear John is another one of my favorites of Nicholas Sparks. It follows the story of John Tyree who falls in love with Savannah while he’s on leave from the Army. They continue their love through letters as John finishes his assignment. Until 9/11 happens and John has to decide to fight for his country or return to his true love. The book is heartfelt and well written. Nicholas Sparks wrote this as a tribute to the people enlisted in the US military, and I felt it was portrayed well (especially with the aftermath of 9/11).

I initially had not heard very good reviews of the movie, but I had to decide for myself. I actually thought the movie was a decent interpretation of the book. I like that it still involved John’s relationship with his father, as that is a large part of the book. It also of course touched on how 9/11 changed the military, which resulted in John’s relationship changing with Savannah. However, I had two issues with the movie. The biggest problem was the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried falls very flat. That factor alone affects the whole movie. The other problem is that the ending is different. I don’t mind a different ending if it works. In this case, it did not.

The book is extremely good and I cried through most of the last chapter. (Fact: I cry often when reading Nicholas Sparks). The adaptation of the book to the movie was decent, but the lack of chemistry between the actors made it unbelievable. I was a bit disappointed. I would give the book a 4 out of 5, but the movie gets a 2 out of 5.

Charlie St. Cloud

It started with my interest in wanting to see the movie. Mostly because I have an undeniable weakness and love for Zac Efron. Then I found the movie-tie in of the book with Zac’s lovely face on the cover. I had no idea that it had been a book, and of course I had to find out how they compared.

Sherwood, Ben. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud (2004). 277 pages. Bantam Dell. $12.99.

I started with the book. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is told from the perspective of the paramedic who saved Charlie’s life. Charlie was in a tragic car accident, which resulted in Charlie being brought back to life and the unfortunate death of his younger brother, Sam. Fast forward 13 years later, Charlie works at a graveyard and, due to a promise he made, plays baseball with this spirit of his dead brother every day at sunset. Charlie’s ability to see his dead brother also allows him to converse with other spirits, and clearly illustrates that he is not truly living hence his “death”. Everything begins to change once he meets a girl, Tess.

I was initially very confused in the beginning, when the story started from the viewpoint of the dead paramedic who once saved Charlie’s life. Despite that, the story telling was simple and straight forward and, I admit, I was drawn in and teared up at the emotional bits. I like Charlie’s character and the bond he has with Sam. I also really like Tess and the connection she has with Charlie. I really cared about the characters and what happened to them.

Although I liked the characters, the writing itself had some issues. The twist to the story wasn’t much of a twist, as I predicted it several pages before it actually happened. The symbolism was a little overdone in comparing Charlie’s “life” to his “death”, and the ending was a little much. In the end, I realized that it was like the writer was trying too hard to be Nicholas Sparks, and kind of fell short. The one thing that bothered me the most was that Charlie had been working at the cemetery for thirteen years, he was 28 years old, and still playing baseball with his 12 year old brother. It just seemed a long time to be playing ball with your dead brother, and I just don’t see how the relationship between them would remain the same. Overall, I liked the story about Charlie, Sam, and Tess but the book seemed overwritten. I would rate the book 2.5/5.

Charlie St. Cloud (2010). Starring Zac Efron, Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta. Directed by Burr Steers. 99 minutes. $12.99.

I watched the movie soon after, and I was pleasantly surprised how close the movie was to the plot of the book. Charlie has a promising college career which abruptly ends with the death of his brother when he starts working at the graveyard instead. I thought the relationship in the movie between Charlie and Sam was played really well. The paramedic was a part of the story (played by Ray Liotta), but was not as big of a part as he was in the book. I pretty much just love Zac Efron, and I thought he did well.

One of the improvements from the book to the movie is that only 5 years pass from the death of his brother instead of 13. Charlie from the book is still hanging out with Sam when he is 28, while Charlie in the movie is only 22 or 23. I felt like it just made more sense. 13 years is a very long time to hold onto guilt, grief, and meetings with your dead brother every day at sunset. I felt like 5 years made a lot more sense. I don’t know why this little thing bothered me so much, but it made the characters in the movie more believable to me.

It still included the same twist to the story, which I felt wasn’t as predictable as it was in the book. I like the chemistry Zac Efron had with Tess (played by Amanda Crew). They filmed the movie in a north eastern harbor town that fit perfectly with where the book was set. I felt that the movie had all the good elements of the story, without the overwriting of the book. I would rate the film 3.5/5.

Push/Precious

After watching The Blindside, I decided that I also wanted to see Precious. I was running with my theme of Oscar nominated movies (although last years Oscars by now). Then I discovered there was also a book that the movie was based on called Push by Sapphire. Already I was hesitant. I tend to have issues with book/movie counterparts when they change the title. It makes me feel like the movie will be vastly different than the written work it’s based on. But I was still committed to this blog at the time (which is laughable because it really doesn’t seem to be the case), so I decided to start with the book.

Sapphire. Push (1997). 192 pages. Vintage. $13.00.

I had assumed that Precious was based on a true story. I’m not sure why I came to that assumption, but I quickly learned that was not the case. The novel Push is actually fiction. It’s about a teenage girl named Precious who has become pregnant by her father raping her, and emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by her mother. She drops out of high school (somewhat kicked out) and ends up in a reform school/GED program for other teenage girls. It’s meant to be tragic for the social conditions Precious lives in, but also inspiring as Precious learns to stand up for herself and grow as a person.

I have to say that I was very uninspired by my book choice and it was very difficult to get through. Luckily, it was short and an easy read otherwise I don’t know if I would have finished it.

The main problem I had with the novel is the narrative itself. The whole novel is narrated in Precious’ voice, which I understand that this is meant to be her story as if she was telling it. However, Precious is a very difficult narrator to follow. She does not give her story any time line,  and the stories she retells don’t match up with where she is when she’s telling it. I understand it was maybe meant to be artistic for the writer, but instead it was confusing and frustrating.

The depictions of Precious’ family dynamic is flat out disgusting. Although Precious is just being honest, the details used to describe the father raping her are vulgar and her mother’s abuse is disturbing.  I will be the first to admit that I have gentle sensibilities, so it was very difficult for me to read through those scenes (and there are a lot of them).

The other issue I had was how difficult it was to see Precious’ growth. Since it is continuously depicted in Precious’ narrative voice it’s hard to see any actual change, because she still sounds uneducated to the very end of the book. The only aspect that changes is her actions, which somewhat shows a hint of her growth.

I felt that maybe I just didn’t get it. I didn’t feel sorry for Precious, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to. You feel sorry for her situation, as the reader understands that no person should be abused this way. It is devastating to think there are children with parents such as that. But I couldn’t pity Precious for it. Mostly because she didn’t even understand how wrong her situation was. It wasn’t a book that I appreciated artistically or enjoyed. I rate the book a 1/5.

At this point, I was thinking anything had to be better than the book I read. I wanted to be able to root for Precious, or to even like Precious.

Precious (2009). Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Lee Daniels. 109 minutes. $19.98.

Thankfully, I did like the movie better. One of the most important improvements was that it had a cohesive, flowing time line. It was easier to see the progression of Precious’ growth, education, and development with having the story told sequentially. It still was in Precious’ point of view, as they had Gabourey voice over a lot of the movie but without any confusion.

The movie also had a great way of expressing visually how Precious saw herself as a person. In the novel, Precious often has daydreams of being a movie star, which always seemed muddled in her narrative. When things would get difficult, she would also imagine herself in a different place. They cut scenes of her movie star self, her imagined white self, and thought processes with scenes happening to her. It worked much better visually than it ever did in the book.

The movie showed Precious’ horrendous situation in ways that were sympathetic but not disturbing. The mother, played by Mo’Nique, was a brilliant performance and rightfully won the Oscar for supporting actress. I even felt sympathetic for the mother’s character which I did not feel at all in the book.  I wasn’t super impressed with Gabrielle Sidbay’s performance until the very end.

The movie was much more enjoyable and a better representation of the overall story than the novel was by itself. I would rate it 3.5/5.

My opinion is to not even bother with the book, and enjoy the more inspiring, hopeful movie interpretation.


Sidenote: If you want a novel with a unique narrative voice that is artistic as well as making believable characters that are interesting, I would recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time. I think that this was the kind of narrative that the writer wanted for Push and failed miserably.

The Blind Side

(Sorry, I was going to post this a week ago. But work and life got in the way. Better late than never).

During my brief stint at Border’s, the movie-tie in version of The Blind Side were flying off the shelves. I had heard how great the movie was, but when I looked at the description of the book it sounded…boring. The online description made it sound like it was all about the evolution of football and not necessarily the story of Michael Oher. I decided that the book was not worth my time. So I watched the movie instead.

The Blind Side (2009). Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, and Kathy Bates. Directed by John Lee Hancock. 129 min. $29.98

For those who don’t know the story (although it seems like everyone saw the movie before I did), it follows the life of Michael Oher plucked from Memphis poverty and becoming an all-star left tackle for the NFL. The movie starts during his life as a high school teenager. He manages to enroll in a rich, white, Christian school where the coach salivates over Michael’s vast size and athletic ability. He meets Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the typical rich, Christian, suburban Memphis family who eventually begin to care for Michael and adopt him into their family.

The movie was fantastic. It was a typical inspirational, heart-warming movie. Some of the scenes were not only touching but funny. Leigh Anne’s character was sassy but with a caring heart for those around her. Sandra Bullock nailed the role and made it completely believable. There was moments when the movie dragged a little bit, but you cared so much for the characters that it didn’t matter too much. I absolutely adore Sandra Bullock and was excited to see the movie that garnered her Oscar win. Although the kid who played Michael was decent, Sandra stole the show. Tim McGraw* played the submissive role of Sean Tuohy. I easily give the movie a rating of 5/5.

I loved the movie so much that I decided to take another look at the book. On closer inspection, it wasn’t as much about football as I originally thought. So I took a trip to my library to check it out.

Lewis, Michael. The Blind Side (2008). 288 pages. Norton. $13.95.

The book did end up being A LOT about football. I will warn you ahead of time that if you don’t know the basics of the game, you will be completely lost (or at least skip almost half the book). I happen to be a rare species of females who understand football very well.** The football history is mixed in with the narrative of Michael Oher’s story. There is a lot about how football has evolved with players and coaches that have changed the game over the years, especially in the evolution of the left tackle position Michael plays. Despite a lot of football talk, there was a detailed account of the story surrounding  Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.

I was pleasantly surprised that the movie very closely resembled the true story of the book. I feel that movies based on a true story rarely accurately portray the true events. This is not the case with this movie. Although the time line was a little different in how some things happened, most of the events related in the movie did happen to some degree. There were several quoted lines in the book from the real people that were written into the movie word for word for their characters.

The only real difference was about Sean Tuohy. The movie mostly depicts the relationship between Leigh Anne and Michael (mother-son), and Sean is seen as just supporting whatever she does and rarely doing anything himself. The book relates a lot of what Sean did for Michael (the first one to meet him and introduce him to his family, found a way to replace his ‘F’s with ‘A’s to get into college). Although I liked the movie as it was, I wish Sean’s character would have been a little more proactive. I felt it was relevant to how this family deeply cared for Michael, including the Tuohy children, Collins and SJ.

I think what impressed me most about this novel was the detail. Michael Lewis did A LOT of research to make this book. There were hundreds of football statistics, and thousands of quoted lines from people ranging from NFL football coaches to the gang-bangers who lived in Michael’s neighborhood to the Tuohy family. It’s hard enough to write a novel from your imagination, much less a book based on a true story that required so much research into football and the lives of the Tuohy family and Michael.

Despite the football lectures, Michael Lewis wrote the story well. And it is definitely a story worth telling. I rate the book 4/5.


*I did not even recognize Tim McGraw till weeks after when my roommate mentioned he was in the movie. I think it was the lack of the cowboy hat. I haven’t decided if not realizing who he really was is actually a sign of his superb acting ability.

**My father had a daughter for his only child and I lived in a one TV household. Consequently, I was stuck watching football on Sundays. I figured I might as well learn how the game is played or die at an early age from boredom. I obviously chose the former.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2007). 224 pages. OUP. $12.99

During my brief stint with working at Border’s, I was in charge of the displays of the newest bestsellers. My manager made me in charge of the kid and Young Adult shelves. His reasoning was that I seemed to care about them most (out of the other employees, which was sadly true). This book was considered as a Young Adult novel, and all I knew was it dealt with the Holocaust. I decided to check it out.

The book started off promising. It begins with very innocent 9 year old Bruno who only cares about hanging out with his best friends, until his dad receives a promotion in the military and they have to move to a place Bruno calls “Out-with” (a not-so-clever name for Auschwitz). The novel continues as the Bruno family move into their new home. The Bruno family is composed of an emotionally distant, domineering father, an alcoholic mother (who presumably has an affair with a German officer), and an older sister who only plays with her dolls. A very bored Bruno explores his new home, and meets a boy with striped pajamas, Shmuel, who lives on the opposite side of the wire fence. They become fast friends in their unique situation as Bruno goes out to meet Shmuel every day.

Bruno begins questioning about all the people living on the other side of the fence in his new home, and questioning what his dad does in his new position. However, he doesn’t question enough. Bruno is very naive which works for the beginning of the novel, and then begins to fall flat. He never develops, never grows, and never seems to understand how Shmuel really lives. He continues to be a selfish brat after a whole year of living in his home, still not pronouncing the name Auschwitz correctly after being told multiple times (he also refers to Hitler as The Fury).

For example, Shmuel asks Bruno to bring food on his daily visits. Pampered Bruno gets hungry on his trips to visit his friend, and most of the food never makes it to Shmuel. Bruno seems to be entirely ignorant of what being a Jew is and even asks his sister if he himself is a Jew. I find this a little hard to believe since Nazi Germany would have certainly educated Bruno on the Jews. Bruno continues to not realize what Shmuel’s life is like and that people die daily on the other side of the fence. Even when Bruno eventually visits his friend by going to the other side of the fence to help Shmuel find his father, (Bruno for some reason thinks he is a detective and can find clues of where Shmuel’s father could be), Bruno STILL doesn’t seem to understand the death, devastation, and despair of Auschwitz.

More depressing is that the book is actually meant for kids (ages 9-12) and some teachers use it as a way to teach children about the Holocaust. There were moments in the book where Bruno’s character should have developed, and instead he stayed static. I don’t feel like he’s a reliable narrator for the devastation of the Holocaust, and there are plenty of better books to teach children with. A book that had a lot of promise fell terribly short of my expectations. I give it a rating of 2/5.

Then I heard there was an indie film released based on the book. And, of course, I had to see how they compare, hoping that the screenwriters might have made Bruno a little more conscientious and little less self absorbed.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008). PG-13. Starring Asa Butterfield and David Thewlis. Directed by Mark Herman. 94 min. $29.99.

The movie begins with a happy family, excited about the father’s new promotion and their move to the country. I was a little thrown off by the movie being entirely cast with English actors, but I got over it and tried to focus on the film. I did not want to like the movie because the book upset me so much. However, I tried to keep an open mind and am happy to report that the movie was marginally better.

The movie initially shows Bruno’s content family, and as the movie progresses the family unit slowly begins to unravel as they continue to stay in Auschwitz. This works much better than the book beginning with a very discordant family, one that has issues from the very start. It helps the viewer have a lot more sympathy for the characters. I cared a great deal more for Bruno’s family in the movie than I did for them in the book. This might not seem a big deal, but it greatly affects the outcome of the ending.

Bruno is still self absorbed, but he does not remain naive. He is taught about who the Jews are and what the camp is for, from his tutor, his sister, and partly by his father. He begins questioning his father’s job and what is done to the people in the camp. After a very key event in the plot, Bruno also begins to doubt if his father is a good man. He changes his mind when he secretly watches a propaganda film on Jewish camps, which makes him think the best of his father.  This worked a lot better than the book because it kept his character naive, not stupid. Of course a young boy is going to want to think the best of his father, even if evidence suggests otherwise.

The liberties they took with the movie actually worked a lot better than the book itself, and a lot of the good parts of the book remained in the movie. The only big difference was that the timeline seemed very different. In the book Bruno lives in Auschwitz for a whole year, while the movie only seemed like a few months. This also worked better for the movie though, because his character did not age nearly as much as he did in the book. A definite improvement over the book, I would rate the movie 3/5.