Adult Fiction, Behind the Books, Book reviews and recommendations

Read Before You Watch

By Niamh Ennis, Leixlip Library

I’m a huge fan of leaving trending TV shows on ‘the list’ on Netflix until I’ve read the original content – even if it’s not something I’ve ever had the slightest interest in before that very moment. Book lovers will understand the To Be Read Pile dilemma well and this is something that also happens with TV, with the adapted content only adding to the former’s list.While many of us have lost our reading mojo amongst the Lockdown, I’ve pushed myself to lessen the TBR pile just a bit so I can sit back and relax with some quality TV.

Good Omens – by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

TV Show season 1 available on Amazon Prime

Available on BorrowBox in both ebook and audiobook format.

Bringing together two of the best Fantasy authors on the planet at the time, Good Omens ( or The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch) follows the Angel Aziraphale and the Demon Crowley as they put aside their differences (in what appears to be 1980’s Britain) to try and stop the coming of the End Times. The anti-Christ has already been born and is a rather unimpressive 11 year old living in Lower Tadfield in Oxfordshire named Adam Young. Adam is a trouble-maker and head of a gang named ‘Them’ but is completely unaware of his powers; he does have an interest in changing the world, but this is more as a conscientious environmentalist and animal lover. The prophecies of the subtitle were by an Agnes Nutter, a 17th Century witch whose descendant, Anathema Device, scrambles to decifier the book left to her as the prophecies are all spectacularly cryptic but always come true. She and a witchfinder she comes across named Newton Pulcifer, are another strand in the story alongside his boss Shadwell and Shadwell’s landlady, a medium named Madame Tracey. 

This was a book that had been on my internal ‘To Be Read Pile’ for a long time. Unfortunately Neil Gaiman’s other recent foray into TV, ‘American Gods’, is still very much TO-BE-READ due to its size. This is a book that we need right about now – facing the fear of Armageddon-like events but with a huge amount of silly comedy and irreverence; many moments had me laughing out loud and I absolutely adored the dynamic duo of Aziraphale and Crowley who have come to quite like the Earth, thank you very much. While this is a story that could benefit from a few less characters it’s light enough to read even when you’re not quite in the mood for reading.

Emma  by Jane Austen

Available on BorrowBox in ebook and audiobook format – reserve now to read soon

The latest adaptation isn’t listed for streaming/DVD release until 22nd June here, so lots of time to read. Netflix do have the 2009 TV series though!

Penguin’s edition of Emma Woodhouse describes her as ‘handsome, clever and rich’ but is not shy to point out that she is also interfering and a little bit obnoxious. That being said Emma’s aim in life is to match-make for her friends, including her sweet but naive friend Harriet, while she attempts to prove immune to the charms of men and the exhausting obsession of the time in which the book is set; marriage.  While this is no doubt in part connected with Mr Woodhouse, Emma’s father, hatred of change their is a feminist intelligence  and autonomy to Emma and that is why this story, and that of Austen’s other works,  transcends time. While Emma is a good friend to Harriet and does try to steer her well in terms of society and marriage, she is ultimately a busy body with a spoiled and sheltered attitude to life in general that needs to be curbed by the book’s end. She almost leads her friend to unhappiness and is very much guided by self-service is attaching herself to a pretty but naive girl. 

This is a book that I started reading years ago as per my favourite author’s recommendation. That time I didn’t get past the first few chapters.I returned to Emma Woodhouse in 2016 and managed to read ¾ way through before I accidentally left it in my parent’s house and hadn’t recorded my page number! This time I had taken a while to get into it, but I just love Austen’s subtle wit and social commentary that once you get over that some characters are just a bit obnoxious and have serious entitlement issues (part of the commentary) you can enjoy it. If you find that it takes you several, weeks apart, attempts, I found spark notes incredibly useful to help you remember what happened so you don’t start over or give up – because it’s well worth keeping with. 

Locke and Key – by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Season 1 is currently on Netflix, with season 2 planned.

You can read volume 1 and 2 available on RB Digital Comics.

Locke and Key is a series of comics that follows a family as they move to Key House in Lovecraft, Massachusetts to grief the violent loss of their father and husband. The children soon discover that this home, which was their father’s childhood home, holds secrets and magic in the form of keys and get into all kindS of adventure and danger. While the TV show speeds this process up significantly, the comics give you a chance to get to know Bodie, Tyler and Kinsey and the father they have lost, while focusing for more time on each key and it’s possibilities. 

These comics have a lot going on, the first volume of two move slow enough for you to get to know and care about the characters while getting used to the mythology of the house and keys. But it also keeps the pace going as the background (and some villains) are revealed. The twists in these comics are fantastic,  and the characters, while a bit immature and misguided at times, are compelling. Bodie in particular is downright loveable. This story is only made the more evocative and colourful by Gabriel Roderigeuz’s stunning illustrations and does so much of the storytelling work for Hill that he has become very good at believable dialogue. Graphic Fiction is often very overlooked as an art form and I am a big fan of saying less with words and more with images.  While I am a fan of reading before I watch, this is an example of where the reading ads so much to the watching, even though it’s a decent adaptation actually in control of the author Joe Hill. All that aside, my favourite aspect is of course the keys, and what they can do and their background – this is well thought-out universe building with that tasty mix of fantasy and realism with a touch of horror.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Available to watch on the RTÉ player here .

Also available to borrow as an ebook on BorrowBox -unfortunately there’s a bit of a wait on this one though.

Aoife from my branch has already reviewed this book, so you can read that here . I agree that I also had a bit of mixed feelings on this one. While it approaches important themes of consent and teenage to young adulthood sexual relationships, mixed messaging and other relationship stuff, the characters are sometimes very unlikeable. I was all set to like how different Connell was at sharing deep feelings to what we normally see from young males on screen, but then he treated Marianne so horribly. She herself was interesting but also on the John Green scale of unrealistic young people with high ideals. Conversations with Friends almost got a 0 stars rating at my bookclub when I picked it a few years back for this very same reason; the university level of pretension and how un-relatable it was for those not from that generation. Perhaps it might even be  a Dublin University thing and I only got some of that from studying English at Maynooth University.

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