So I saw The Time Traveler’s Wife at the cinema last night (yes it does pain me to write traveler with one l). I have been looking forward to the release of this film for a while as I adore the book beyond all measure as I wrote about here and I had high hopes. I don’t know why I did, as literary adaptations never cease to disappoint me in some measure, and I usually end up having a moan after watching films of my favourite books about how so and so wasn’t a bit like they should have been, and how they missed such and such an important storyline out etc . I find that filmed versions of novels, especially dense and complicated ones with various characters and an emphasis on conversation rather than plot can never live up to the imagined version you have of a book, and so you do have to adapt your expectations accordingly. However, I am also an eternal optimist and so I was determined to hope for the best and was prepared to be swept away and into the world of this remarkable story.

I was. To an extent. But I was also bitterly disappointed in the complete exclusion of certain characters, like Mrs Kim, and how Clare’s mother’s mental disorder was not even mentioned, how little Gomez and Clarisse feature, how small a role Henry’s father has, and how very little of the shared past Clare and Henry have before they meet in ‘real’ time is shown. Unless you have read the book, you will leave the cinema confused, as many threads are picked up and then never really explained; I suspect some overzealous editing is the culprit. The emotional intensity of Clare and Henry’s relationship is obvious; if they’re not kissing, they’re in bed; but they don’t actually talk much, and unless you know their characters from the book, you would struggle to understand why exactly they feel so passionately about one another.

It was a fairly good go at a very complicated book and I can understand why they cut out periphery events and characters because they do only have 2 hours or so to fit it all in. However, it all fell a bit flat really and didn’t give enough background or depth to Clare and Henry’s relationship to make the film as emotional as I wanted it to be. I wanted to have a good sob like I did at the book, and yet it wasn’t until the final scene that isn’t even in the book that I cried my eyes out and had to grope around in the dark for a tissue.

I am very fussy when it comes to adaptations of my favourite books and I am sure that if I was coming to the film without having read the novel I would have enjoyed it more because it wouldn’t have been vying for supremacy over my imagined version of what the book on film should have been like. One of my friends who came with me hadn’t read it and she still enjoyed it, but my other friend who has read the book also was a bit disappointed, though that didn’t stop her from crying for most of the way through the film!

It’s worth a watch but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again. It has made me think though of what does make a good film adaptation of a novel, and it is, I think, making sure that characterisation is not sacrificed over plot. My favourite film adaptation (by film I mean cinema release, not tv adaptation) of a novel is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma because Gwyneth Paltrow is exactly how I imagined Emma to be, and the film captures the spirit of the book perfectly in my opinion. I’d be very interested to hear what are your favourite adaptations, and why?

In other news, I made Simon’s chocolate orange cake the other night and it was delicious, despite me having no caster or icing sugar and having to use granulated sugar for everything. This was due to my own laziness at not being bothered to trek to Morrissons at 9.30pm. The cake turned out fine with granulated, and I used 4 eggs rather than Simon’s three, but I wouldn’t recommend using granulated sugar for butter icing – the gritty crunchiness is still tasty but a bit wearing on the teeth! However, needs must and it still tastes good! See photo. It’s now almost all gone as my flatmates and our friends have been hacking slices off left right and centre. Also, excitingly, I bought a zester, which has actually IMPROVED THE QUALITY OF MY LIFE and therefore you all must buy one too. Gone are the days of having to spend half an hour brushing zest out of my cheese grater with a pastry brush – the zester takes it all off and drops it right into the bowl with no mess and no fuss and no wastage. Such joy! £1.49 in Morrissons. I love Morrisons. So thanks to Simon for a fabulous recipe. I’ll definitely be making it again, it was absolutely delicious!

I am now sitting on the sofa watching Persuasion as I am going on holiday to Bath not next week but the week after and I want to pretend I am Anne Elliot running along the Royal Crescent to meet Captain Wentworth when I am there. So romantic! All I need to do is find myself a Captain Wentworth…a girl can dream!


  1. Darlene says:

    Feeling quite inadequate here at the moment as I still use a grater for zesting lemons. Oh, the shame. Since its been life-changing for you I promise to buy myself a proper zester to see what it can do for me. Have a wonderful time in 'Bawth' as Eloise says. In the meantime, I'm going to do some thinking about the novel/movie adaptation thing.

  2. StuckInABook says:

    Oo that looks amazing. Could you pop some in the post to me… no?I'm going to see the film which I always refer to as The Time Travel[l]er's Wife on Wednesday… will bear your thoughts in mind. But while I liked the book a lot, it's not one of my favourites, so I might be more lenient.

  3. Table Talk says:

    I've been humming and haaing about whether or not to see this film. Like you I loved the book but I'm not great on adaptations, they always manage to leave out the small moments that actually add up to the big impressions. The 'l' is a problem, isn't it. When this book first came out I heard someone talking about it on the radio and went down to the library to reserve it. hey couldn't find it on the catalogue because we all automatically spelt the word with two ls.

  4. Rob Hardy says:

    The Time Traveler's Wife has been repeatedly recommended to me, and I'm in a bind now. Must I read the novel first, or can I rush right out and see lovely Rachel McAdams in the film? (If you haven't seen the Canadian television series Slings and Arrows, you should treat yourself to it. It's brilliant, and in the first series, McAdams is luminous.)

  5. Heather Bond says:

    I have just the same trouble with adaptations. I am always excited to see a favorite novel brought to life only to be bitterly disappointed by the film. Still, hope springs eternal and once in a while they come close to getting it right (I thought The Hours was quite well done). Which Persuasion are you watching? I'm partial to the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version myself.

  6. Rachel says:

    Darlene – please buy a zester, then come and tell me how amazing you think it is, because you will find it lifechanging, I promise! Thanks for the good wishes for my Bath trip, I'll have plenty of photos to post on my return, rest assured!Simon – Next time I bake a chocolate orange cake, I'll be sure to put some in a tupperware and send it over! Do let me know how you find the film.TableTalk- I love the way you put that about the small moments – that's so true, and I think that's why the film lacks the emotional gravitas of the book. Rob- read the novel first! You must! I do like Rachel McAdams, and I think she does a brilliant job as Clare in the film – I'll have to look out for the series you mention. We don't get Canadian TV here – apart from Due South!! Heather – I so agree about The Hours, one of my favourites. I was watching the Rupert Penry Jones Persuasion…delicious! I don't think I've seen the one you mentioned, I'll have to search it out!

    1. Yvann says:

      And you thought my reply to your other post was late! Just found this post in my Read It Later and must comment…

      Adaptations – have read and watched TTTW and thought they did a pretty good job with the movie considering complexity of book plot. Book plot blew my mind but I got fed up with the constant intimacy scenes so I was glad that these were less omnipresent in the film!

      Best TV adaptation: About A Boy. Having only just read the book, I fear I must utter the dreaded words “the film was better”. However, Pride & Prejudice TV series obviously streets ahead of the recent film. And for me the TV series is inextricably linked with the book, I think of them as one entity, really! (Double English on Saturdays for at least half a term was P&P on TV…)

      In other news, I too love Morrisons and shall buy a zester, which will improve my life because then I will make that cake! which looks amazing and delicious and I want to eat it off the screen.

      And I will have to find the adaptation of Persuasion that you watched, it sounds good!

      1. bookssnob says:

        Hi Yvann! What are you doing to me? Now I want this cake that I made so very long ago!!

        I totally agree about About a Boy – excellent, and a film I always enjoy watching. There’s something very endearing about Hugh Grant in it which I don’t normally see in his film roles!

        I miss Morrisons, though Trader Joe’s is a very good replacement here in New York! You need that zester – I’m telling you, it makes a world of difference!

        The Persuasion adaptation is on DVD – it has Sally Hawkins in it and Rupert Penry Jones and is very good. Some people don’t like the camera work but I love a bit of handheld shakiness myself!

  7. Yvann says:

    So bake it again, as a New Year’s cake in New York!

  8. Kinga says:

    I think my favourite adaptation is the BBC series of Small Island (by Andrea Levy). I loved that book and I was surprised how much I agreed with the director’s vision and even the casting choices. They only really left out one plotline which was actually the one I thought didn’t make much sense and didn’t add to the story. I think BBC series of White Teeth is also good, although I only saw the first episode because then I had to leave UK and when I came back it was no longer available on iplayer.

    I think, generally the BBC are good at it, better than Americans anyway, because they don’t have the need to make everything so hollywood.

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