Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

Louise is a single mom to six-year-old Adam. She has a penchant for wine, smokes (although not in front of her son) and could stand to lose a few pounds.

My life is a blur of endless routine. I get Adam up and get him to school. If I’m working and want to get in early, he goes to breakfast club. If I’m not working, I may spend an hour or so browsing charity shops for designer castoffs that will fit the clinic’s subtly expensive look. Then it’s just cooking, cleaning, shopping until Adam comes home and then it’s homework, tea, bath, story, bed for him, and wine and bad sleep for me.

Adele is a the wife of David, a doctor. Their marriage is clearly rocky, The new house, David’s new practice, the fact that Adele is beautiful, none of it seems to make any difference.

Why can’t he still love me? Why can’t our life been as I’d hoped, as I’d wanted, after everything I’ve done for him? We have plenty of money. He has the career he’d dreamed of. I have only ever tried to be the perfect wife and give him the perfect life.

Adele and Louise take turns narrating in Sarah Pinborough’s novel Behind Her Eyes. behindTheir lives intersect when Louise meets David at a bar and they share a ‘moment’ and then she discovers he’s her new boss and then she bumps into Adele (literally) in the street. Louise is charmed by Adele who seems wholly glamorous and somehow innocent. Adele takes Louise on as a project, encouraging her to quit smoking and join the gym. Soon the women are sharing a close friendship which is complicated by the fact that Louise is in love with David and pretty soon the two have moved from the ‘moment’ to a full-on relationship.

Behind Her Eyes is full of conveniences. Louise’s ex-husband takes Adam away to France for a month leaving Louise the freedom to sleep with David and have coffee with Adele. She is bereft of friends except for Sophie, an unemployed actress married to a music exec. Despite the fact that Sophie continually sleeps around on her husband, she turns sanctimonious when discussing Louise’s affair with David, telling her that “having an affair is a big enough secret and not one you’re really cut out for.” Louise and Adele bond over the fact that they both suffer from night terrors.

The novel drops a breadcrumb trail of then, which allows the reader a glimpse into Adele’s murky past – parents killed a fire that destroyed part of the estate where she grew up, a stint in some sort of care facility, a close friendship with a fellow patient, Rob. In the now, Adele is less transparent. She is clearly duplicitous, we’re just not sure how or why.

Behind Her Eyes was a book club pick and although some of the women in my group enjoyed reading the book – even I did to a point – I don’t think any of us would say we loved it. I definitely didn’t. Perhaps you could argue that the clues were there all along and I know all the BIG NAME  readers out there loved the novel’s twist, but for me – I just felt cheated. Way too deus ex machina for me.

That said – I am in the minority for sure and if nothing else, Behind Her Eyes will get you turning the pages.

Books and movies…

I finally bit the bullet and rented The Time Traveler’s Wife a few nights ago. I didn’t go see it in the theatre despite my deep and abiding love for the book. Mostly I was afraid that the film wouldn’t do the book justice…and I was right. I really like Rachel McAdams and although Eric Bana might not have been my first choice for Henry, I don’t mind him either…but the movie just wasn’t good. Maybe it’s impossible to create a faithful adaptation of a novel like TTTW, I don’t know. That said, Peter Jackson did a pretty impressive job with Tolkien.

In any case, it got me thinking about other book – to – film adaptations. What works and what doesn’t?

An example of one that  works which immediately springs to mind is Ordinary People. The book, by Judith Guest, was published in the 1976. The film, directed by Robert Redford, came out in 1980. I’d read the novel and I went to the movie. You’d be hard pressed to say which is better. The film stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore (I know!), Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch. I can highly recommend the film because it’s so faithful to the novel and the performances are so rich. The book’s excellent, of course. Back in the day, Mary Tyler Moore’s performance garnered all sorts of praise as the character she played was so different from the one we were used to seeing on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Really, rent the film. (It won  four Oscars: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay)

I also think Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County is terrific. The book is actually on my Reader’s table, but not because I think it’s great literature. Nevertheless, that novel made me cry so hard. And so did the movie. I loved that they didn’t try to pretty it up. Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood played the title characters, two people who fall in love – deeply and unexpectedly- later in life. Clint Eastwood is a terrific director anyway and this movie was simple and beautiful and hey, is there any character Streep can’t play?

Speaking of Streep, I was first introduced to her back in the 70s through a film called Sophie’s Choice. That film was based on a novel by William Styron, which I read after I saw the film. The film is a doozy. The book, although excellent, is slightly drier.

One author whose work has often been adapted successfully is Stephen King. The Shawshank Redemption based on King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” is fantastic.

So is Brian De Palma’s adaptation of King’s novel Carrie. I saw this movie when it came out in the theatre back in the 1970s and it scared the living crap out of me.

One thing I’ve realized doing this is how much movie trailers have changed!

What about you? Do you have any favourite film adaptations? Any movies you felt really didn’t capture the essence of the book? I’d love to hear about them.