Read for the Book to Movie Challenge
I saw the movie version of this book when it was in the theater (back in 2006), and that definitely colored my perceptions of the book. I had read online that Ridley Scott (the director of the movie) had come up with the original idea for the book (and is given that credit in the book), and then decided to make the movie when the book ended up being different than the original story he had envisioned.
I tend to try and read books before their movie versions, as I almost inevitably spend half the book wondering what exactly is going on because some major plot point was done quite differently in the movie. In this case, the plot points were very similar – overworked London guy (Max) inherits his uncle’s house in Provence, goes to Provence, realizes he likes the pace of life, meets a girl, and decides to stay. There’s also a subplot involving a young American woman who may or may not be his cousin, the illegitimate daughter of his uncle, who nonetheless may have more right to the property than Max under French law.
The book is a much more laid back version of the movie. I can almost see it as a gradual love story between Max and Provence. On the other hand, the movie is a straight love story. In the book, Fanny (the girl Max falls for) is a barely developed character, but she has a lot of back-story in the movie, and a lot more of a part of the action of the story itself.
Max is also less sympathetic in the movie. As played by Russell Crowe, he’s much more of a hot-shot stock trader, who fully intends to sell his Uncle’s house and return to his life in London. The movie’s Max has a more abrupt realization that his does love this house, and he comes very close to losing it. In the book, this sense of impending loss is never seen.
Unusually for me, I think I might actually like the movie version of this story more than the book. The movie followed a more dramatic story arc than the book, and actually had better characterizations for several secondary characters that still played important roles in the story. I was happy to read the book, for the contrast, and for a few slightly more interesting back plot points (the secret wine production on the estate), but if I had to chose one to see/read again, I’d go for the movie.