I am intrigued by how different our expectations of a book, or movie, are to what we eventually experience.
When I saw the trailers for Lady in the Van from the book by Alan Bennett, I was expecting a rollicking comedy from that mistress of witty one-liners – Dame Maggie Smith. Then I read some comments about a dark movie.
What I saw was a complex portrayal of a haunted woman. The story of her life was only gradually revealed, as happens in life. Her relationship with the writer Alan Bennett as she took up residence in his driveway is a difficult one, and, as an Australian, I kept asking, “How could this happen?”
I simply couldn’t imagine an old lady parking for fifteen years in the driveway of a house in a middle-class suburb of any of our major cities. The film is also a comment on the British middle class, and the problems of homelessness, mental illness and ageing that Western societies face. Certainly, there was humour, but the film was more a reflective piece than I’d been lead to believe.
I then read Alan Bennet’s book. While the story is essentially the same, the filmmakers showed great imagination and creativity in presenting the essence of the situation. Alan Bennet’s direct reflections are very honest.
When I downloaded The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George, I expected a romance set in a bookshop in Paris. The first surprise was that the book was a translation.
The bookshop is a barge on the Seine, owned by a troubled man whose lover walked out, or so he thinks, years ago. Much of the book does not take place in Paris but follows a disparate group of travellers along the rivers of France in a modern picaresque novel. The book is a reflective philosophical book with vividly drawn settings, strong characters and satisfying storyline, involving a quest and personal mysteries. This truly was a most satisfying read, quite unlike the fluff piece I was expecting.
It is one of the joys of reading, and of viewing, to have preconceptions dashed only to find something more fulfilling.
The books mentioned in this review are available at Dymocks.
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