Wednesday 15 June 2011

Devouring Books: Little Children by Tom Perrotta

I'm not going to say too much about this book, since I already reviewed the film version of it, and this was refreshingly similar and faithful to the book. I think that, for the rest of the Books to Movies challenge, though, I'm going to read the book first, since watching the film, as I have seen with this, definitely impacts on how you see the book.

There were some different aspects of the story in the book as opposed to the film, however, some of which I liked, and some which I didn't quite so much. There was one arc of the story that was really very different to the one in the movie, and I had to keep reminding myself that the book's version of events was the 'real' one, because I did quite radically prefer the version portrayed in the film. But more about that later.

So, the first difference I noticed was that our hero, Brad in the movie, was actually originally called Todd; both fine upstanding All-American names, and I don't really understand the name change for the movie- if the producers or whoever doubted the credentials of the name Todd, then clearly they've never read Sweet Valley High! This is obviously not that important, however, and what is certainly more interesting is the capacity books have to give us a greater psychological insight to our to our characters, and this is certainly something that the book of Little Children doesn't shy away from. Thus, we see Todd's obsession with the teenage skateboarders as the product of his stunted adolescent development after his mother's death, and Sarah's complete willingness to enter into an affair as a result of her feeling shunned at high school, and left feeling utterly inadequate after being left working in Starbucks after college. This added new depth to these characters, and, I personally think, makes the reader more sympathetic towards their actions.

The book also provides a greater insight into some of the characters who are more marginalised in the movie- we are given a privileged look into the head of Mary Ann, the super bitchy mother, and Sarah's husband Richard is given more of a story of his own, rather than just being the slightly creepy knicker sniffer that he is in the film. Interspersed with this, however, were slightly more detailed descriptions of American football games then I really needed, and I have to admit to skimming over the play by play descriptions after a few pages (yes, pages!) of it. I think that's something that really works better on the screen, so that every move doesn't have to be described in minute detail, and I don't have to feel like I want to DIE of boredom!

The biggest difference between the book and the movie, however, is the way the paedophile, McGorvey, is portrayed. Far from what I thought was quite a sensitive depiction (for a paedophile) in the movie, the book makes him quite the monster in basically all areas of his life. He is rude, sullen, very provoking, and not nearly as apologetic for his urges as the movie makes him out to be. This is something that I feel ends up making the book far less surprising and original in its viewpoint as the film, and was a major disadvantage for me upon reading it. Because of these character traits the book imposes upon McGorvey, the endings of the book and movie are significantly different, and the one in the film I find a lot more dramatic, and also just a lot more interesting than the ending of the book, which, in comparison is a little bit boring.

I feel a bit naughty saying that there are things I like better in the movie than the book at all, but close inspection of IMDb tells me that Perrotta, along with the director, Todd Fields, wrote the screenplay, which hopefully means that he approved of the changes, and possibly even preferred them to the version he came up with in the book. Therefore, in my twisted brain, that means it's ok for me to prefer them too! Rest assured though, I really did enjoy the book (reading it in about 2 days is a big indication of that!) and I assign both it and the movie to you as summer reading and viewing- you definitely won't be bored, that's for sure.


  1. I saw the film version and I thoroughly enjoyed it, strangely I didn't know there was a book version. Learn something new everyday. I will keep my eyes open for it now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I really need to read this one. I have had the book for a few years now!

  3. I am too wimpy for either this book or movie, but I enjoyed your review of both! (I feel quite guilty when I find a film version better than the book!) Interesting that the movie chose to 'soften' up McGorvey -- usually I find the flipflop to be true, that complicated villains become flat.

  4. You're off to a hot start! Nice commentary, although this one might be a bit intense for me... So far movies have been doing pretty well against their counterparts.