Category Archives: book to film

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace coverMy final book of the summer reading challenge and I am thrilled to have finished this one just under the wire! This is my third Margaret Atwood book I’ve read and it just might be my favorite one yet; earlier this summer I read The Blind Assassin and a few years ago I read The Handmaids Tale. While I greatly enjoyed the The Blind Assassin, I found myself getting slightly bored at times; it’s a brilliant novel and has a phenomenal ending, but a few sections in the middle tended to drag for me. With Alias Grace, however, I was hooked from the start and could not put the book down until I was finished.

The novel is based on an actual case of murder in the 1840s. It tells the story of Grace Marks, a beautiful, 16-year-old girl, who was convicted for her involvement in the murders of her employer and his housekeeper, who was also his mistress. Grace is serving a life sentence but claims to have no memory of the crimes. That is all true, and Margaret Atwood does not change any known historical facts. She says, “Where mere hints and outright gaps exist in the records, I have felt free to invent.” And what a brilliant writer and inventor she is. In the novel, a young doctor studying mental illness begins visiting Grace, hoping to tease out her memory and determine if she is a true amnesiac or a gifted liar and ruthless “murderess.” The chapters alternate between the doctor, Simon’s, experiences with Grace, as well as his own experiences in the small Canadian town where he is staying, along with chapters on Grace’s experiences in jail and her meetings with him. Chapters in-between also include letters from various key players in the novel, such as the doctor, a reverend petitioning for her release, and Grace herself, among others.

Because the narrative switches around from various characters, we learn a little something from each one. And Atwood loves to hide important details in the most minute of statements or fragments of a letter, to where you could easily miss an important clue if you are not reading carefully. I have also noticed from reading a few of Atwood’s novels that she likes to play with the idea of the unreliable narrator. Grace, when she is the narrator and also when Simon is the narrator yet talking to her, comes off so genuine and truthful. We as readers believe her, or at least want to. But then just as we start to believe her, she makes us question that. Just as Dr. Simon probably feels, never knowing if he can believe her or not. There are passages such as this, where the doctor has brought Grace a gift and in her inner monologue we hear: “I set to work willingly to tell my story, and to make it as interesting as I can, and rich in incident, as a sort of return gift to him.” Are we meant to take that as her embellishing her story, or simply divulging more of the truth than she ever has before because the good doctor has been kind to her?

This book will keep you guessing until the last and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly highly recommend. It is a fantastic murder mystery, a great period drama, and an in-depth character study, on both Grace and the doctor attempting to figure her out. It’s definitely one of those books that sticks with you long after you put it down.

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Kaylie Jasinski (class of ’14)
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Book to TV

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

cover artAmerican Gods connects well with Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, which I listened to earlier this summer. American Gods also appeals to Gaiman’s interest in mythology, following a well intentioned but down on his luck man named Shadow as he tries to restart his life with a new job and a journey through America where he meets beings he previously thought were only characters. They have immigrated to America looking for something new.

The story is timely given the current discussion on immigration and heritage in our country, while still serving as a fun, seedy story reminiscent of neo noir genre. The “coming to America” sections (which Gaiman notes were used as ways to get around his writers block while he wrote) are an interesting and fun way to break up the main story with something very different but still on theme. The version I read was a multi cast reading, featuring different actors for all the characters. Given the wide diversity of the characters featured in the story, this plan serves the book well. Rather than abridge or adapt the book, they decided to instead use the unabridged original manuscript Neil Gaiman originally plan to publish before the final edits were made. Overall the voice reading is very good, especially the leads, and the story is an imaginative and fun look at mythology, the American dream, and the lengths people will go to get what they need.

This book is good for:
1. People who enjoy fresh takes on diverse mythology
2. People who enjoy seedy neo noir style settings and characters
3. People who enjoy audiobooks with a varied and strong cast. Or if you only read, an interesting variety of characters.

Availability: USMAI, COSMOS, SMCM
Submitted by: Nick Huber 2013
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenges: Audiobook Narration, Books adapted for tv/film

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

cover art

Nothing to Envy is an inside look at life in North Korea which is revealing, fascinating & a compelling read. Only wish it were updated for this decade.

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Catherine Pell
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Bonus comment on The Handmaid’s Tale,

A must read – especially if one is intrigued by the subsequent television series, this book is well worth the time to read.

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Catherine Pell
Rating: Must Read
Challenge:  Book to TV

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

I’d been meaning to read the Handmaid’s Tale for a long time, and once the TV show came out I knew I needed to figure out what all the hype was about. The Handmaid’s Tale is terrifying. An absolutely epic portrait of how messed up the world can get in terms of women’s reproductive rights, The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a world in which women’s rights are basically non-existent and everyone is plagued by intense oppression. The scary thing is that, for some people, this is a world that makes sense and is fair, even today. This is a book that will send shivers down your spine if you understand how possible it is, and how well it mirrors some people’s lives.

 

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Must Read
Challenge:  Book to TV

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

cover artAlthough The Jane Austen Book Club is a New York Times Bestseller and a well-loved book, I found it kind of bland and hard to get through. Fowler’s set of characters are amusing and it’s fun to learn about their lives in relation to the books they choose, but there’s depth missing to the characters that makes it hard to like them or connect to them. I recommend this book because it is well written, but with reservations as the reader may need a deeper understanding and love of Jane Austen in order to fully appreciate the details of the characters and their relationships to each other.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating:  Recommended with Reservations
Challenge:  Book to film

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451

Despite it being a seminal intro to SciFi prose Fahrenheit 451 has a distinct poetic quality to it. The descriptive nature of Montag’s inner turmoil and his stream of consciousness as he sheds his role as book burner to become a book preserver, slowly revealed his metamorphosis. This glimpse into the dystopic future left me with many ideas to mull over.

Availability: SMCM, USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Denise Brace nee Lerch (’82)
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book to film