Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lit Flicks Challenge: The Golden Compass

For my second novel for the Lit Flicks Challenge, I picked up The Golden Compass. Mostly because I was at the used book store and it was there on sale and I've always been interested. These books came out when I was a child but I never heard of them. I had no interest. I was 14, right up their alley, but no ... I couldn't say what I was reading then, but it wasn't these.

The novel took me awhile to get involved in. I started it on the airplane when I flew to Ohio last Friday and finished it last night. That's a long time for me to spend on a book. The beginning was slow and meandering and took us through a great deal of plot points that I'm still not sure how they all fit in. It did pick up, but one thing I kept doing in an effort to finish was imagine myself reading it too a child. The voices I would make and the expression on the kids face and blah blah blah. It made it pass more quickly.

Without getting into too much of the plot ... Lyra Belaqua is an orphan that has spent her 11 years living at Jordan College. She pretty much has the run of the place, and the professors there give her a makeshift education. One day her wafaring Uncle Asriel returns from the North. She sneaks into the Retiring Room (I can't remember why) and listens to a presentation he makes to the professors, asking for money. It is here she learns of the city in the sky and Dust. She also sees someone attempt to poison her Uncle, and it's here we are expected to learn how dangerous the idea of Dust and other worlds is.

Oh, and in this reality, all humans have daemons; little critters that are connected to them for life and are in essence their souls.

Meanwhile, Gyptian children (the novels poor people, sort of like gypsies or pirates) are being stolen away from their families. The remaining children have come to call the child thieves as Gobblers, and Lyra's best friend, just after Lord Asriel arrives, is stolen away by these meanies.

Soon after Lord Asriel leaves with his money from the college on his expedition North (Lyra asks to go and is refused), the dreaded Mrs. Coulter appears on campus and wants to take Lyra with her on her own trip North. Lyra, fascinated by the Dust, the city and the armored warrior bears, is very excited to go. Master, someone at the college, fears for her and makes cryptic comments about destiny and not wanting her to go, and gives her the altheiometer (forgive myspelling). He makes her promise not to tell Mrs. Coulter that she has it.

Desperate to go to the North and give the altheiometer to her Uncle and to save Roger from the Gobblers (it is assumed that whatever the baddies are doing, they are doing it in the North), Lyra travels with the enchanting and beautiful Mrs. Coulter only to discover that her beauty is skin deep, she's actually very cruel, and she's deeply involved and invested in the cover up of Dust and the city in the lights.

Mayhem ensues as Lyra escapes, is taken into custody by the Gyptians who are determined to find their missing babies and bring them home. They run into a renegade bear, a Texan with an air balloon, and witches who are on the brink of fighting their own war.

All very exciting fodder for the minds of the youth. And I love reading childrens books that are about meanie parents / guardians that are stealing away children in the night. I think it takes me back to my own childhood and The Witches, with those baddies posioning children and turning them into mice!

I give the book a B, because, well ... I think I'm jaded by Harry Potter, for one. And Narnia. But Lyra is very compelling and I love the litte daemons because I think it just fits so well with what children dream about ... a little constant companion that can ride about in their clothes and defend them from bullies. A living doll that can speak to them. I will pick up the second in the His Dark Materials series, A Subtle Knife, but I definitely hope the action picks up faster than this one did.

The movie ... eh. I felt similarly to how I felt when I'm watching Harry Potter. They don't particularly care about plot points, they just want to show you what you've read. The bug that Mrs. Coulter sent to find Lyra? Here's what that looks like! The armor that the bears wear? Here's what that looks like! The city in the sky and the daemons that pass when their humans do? Here's what that looks like!

The strangest thing though ... the ending. Why did it end that way? The book didn't end that way? Lyra finds Asriel as he completes his dasterdly plan to make his away to city in the Aurora and she travels after him with Pan, on her own search for the Dust. In the movie? Well the mixed up a lot of the plot points for reasons that don't make sense to me ... and the movie ends with the survivors in the air balloon, flying toward the Aurora. Why?

I don't know. Maybe something will be explained to me in the second novel. I enjoyed seeing the daemons and the bears and the things I had read about, but as usual, they butchered the plot in an effort to ... do something. I'm not sure what.

I will keep the book on the shelf for my future generations, but I don't think it's a repeat read for me. Unless said generation wants me to read it to them. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lit Flicks Challenge: Jane Austen Book Club

My first novel / movie combination for the Lit Flicks challenge was The Jane Austen Book Club. In a rare and strange occurance, I saw the movie before I read the novel. Mostly because I enjoyed the movie so much.

So I have the unusual ability this time to wonder which I enjoyed more.

To review the book first ... it was rather slow. Fowler is a very good author and I think that I just wasn't in the mood. This would be a very good, rainy day, skip work read. All cuddled up with nothing much to worry about, and looking for a little modern day Austen to keep you company. But I think my mood at the time I was reading this (just having finished something else on Henry VIII) hindered my enjoyment.

At any rate, definitely worth a read. It was only 300 or so pages, very quick once I sat down and got going at it.

The movie stays relatively faithful, except they leave out a great deal of back story on Jocelyn and Sylvia, and they completely butcher Prudie and Dean. Everything else, pretty dead on. Except for Prudie and Dean, and this is what irritated me the most now that I've read the book ...

I think that the screenwriters / directors had the same problem with action that I did. The book is rather meandering. It's just a steady pace through 6 people's lives as they read Jane Austen books. No one dies, some people do get hurt, but really, it's just a very steady paced novel.

So I think those reasons are why they said that Prudie, a high school French teacher, wanted to have an affair with one of her students, that her husband cancelled their trip to France for a basketball game, and that she almost met said high school student at a motel.

In the novel, and this just really made so much more sense, Prudie didn't get to go to France because her mother died (who also wasn't as crazy as the movie portrayed her), she didn't underestand why her dishy husband loved her, and he was just way too nice to her. The novel didn't really wrap anything up with a bow (also maybe part of my reserve in liking it) and the movie (catering to Americans) probably felt it needed to. Hence the final scene at the library dinner.

I liked both movie and novel, for different reasons. But I was really frustrated with the movie after reading the novel and discovering what they did to Prudie.