Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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6 Best Film Adaptations of Classic Books

“Hey, Kimster!” says She Who (thinks she) Must Be Obeyed. (Insert eye roll here. Do I ever have Mom snowed!)  “I’ve got a great idea for summer reading!”

What is it now, Mom?

“Let’s revisit some of our favorites from classic British literature this summer… on film!”

You mean like that Charles D. guy? The 19th century novelist you keep bugging me to read again? As in Pip and Miss Havisham? Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay? Jacob and Ebenezer?

Exactly!

“Exactly!” chirps Her Momness.  (She always does that chirpy thing when she’s on a roll. Me? I save that for bacon.)

Anyway, that’s how we got to binge watching all things Charles Dickens-ish. And 18th century Cornwallish. Wait. Did I say “binge watching”? Well, yeah. One of us claims she doesn’t have the time to plow through Martin Chuzzlewit or Bleak House in one summer, let alone Pip and Magwitch or David Copperfield and Peggotty. 

So we’re watching (mostly) BBC productions and movies of same. Here’s what we’ve watched so far in the classic English historical fiction mode. These are our favorite film adaptations of select classic books, as noted. How many do you recognize?

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‘Marley’ Brings Dickensian Character Back to Life

 

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By Jon Clinch

Fiction

It’s December and ‘Tis the Season! So we’re kicking off the month with a seasonal classic. Sort of. It’s more like a twist on a seasonal classic, called Marley.

As in: If you thought Ebenezer Scrooge was a piece of work, wait till you get a load of Jacob Marley.

Yes, Marley. Scrooge’s deceased business partner. He appears briefly in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He’s the chained and tormented ghost doomed to wander the earth forever as punishment for his greed and selfishness when he was alive (He also looks a lot like Alec Guinness in the 1970 musical, Scrooge).

Back Story

Clinch’s vividly imaginative and enjoyable novel fills us in on Marley’s back story of greed, duplicity, and treachery. This guy makes Scrooge look like a piker. If lying, cheating, and stealing were Olympic sports, Jacob Marley would bring home the gold. Every time.

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Timeless & Transcendent: ‘Born Free’ Still Touching Lives

Have you ever re-discovered a book from your childhood that still has the power to move and profoundly impact you, even a half century after your initial read? If so, then you’ve found a true classic.

Pinterest

Joy Adamson’s Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds is such a book.

A Remarkable True Story

Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George.

At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to set her free.

It’s probably the most moving and inspiring “animal story” I’ve ever read.

Joy Adamson wrote three books about African lions: Born Free, Living Free, and Forever Free. I read them all. Born Free is my favorite.

I first read Born Free in 1969, nine years after it was first published. I was in the fifth grade. Entranced, I read it over and over. There’s something timeless and transcendent about the story that’s difficult to put into words.

I lost track of Adamson and Elsa over the years. But I never forgot the extraordinary story of a free born lioness and the humans who loved her. I recently located a library copy of Born Free. Finally.

Elsa and “Born Free” author Joy Adamson.

 

Like a Ton of Bricks

Opening the Forward to the Fortieth Anniversary Edition (2000), I was startled to learn that Joy Adamson was stabbed to death by a disgruntled former employee in 1980. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I’d lost a best friend I’d never met. So it was with a mixed sense of sadness and reverence that I sat in a sun-soaked living room in a far corner of the Pacific Northwest nearly forty years after that sad event and re-opened a book that profoundly impacted my life, especially with regard to animals.

Lavishly illustrated with black and white photographs, Elsa’s story is still an unforgettable one. So is Adamson’s prodigious writing talent. Her breezy, bucolic style recalls another formidable literary talent who writes so evocatively about her life in Kenya: Isak Dinesen. Like Dinesen, Adamson’s descriptions of her life as the wife of a senior game warden in East Africa have a luminous quality that is almost melodic.

My favorite photo from the book. Joy Adamson and Elsa.

I read Born Free cover to cover in one sitting. Here’s a key line, from page 109:

“Her (Elsa’s) good-natured temperament was certainly due in part to her character, but part too may have come from the fact that neither force nor frustration was ever used to adapt her to our way of life. For we tried by kindness alone to help her to overcome the differences that lie between our two worlds.”

The Adamsons and Elsa succeed beyond all expectations.

Patiently Waiting

Re-reading the last chapter, The Final Test, the same intense sense of sadness and loss these pages evoked in me five decades ago bubbled up again from some deep internal well. It was as if Elsa and her human pride had never left, patiently waiting 50 years for my return to their story.

Recording Elsa’s success in finding her own wild pride and mate, Adamson writes:

“We returned to camp alone, and very sad. Should we leave her now, and so close a very important chapter of our lives?”

The Adamsons decide to wait “a few more days” to make sure Elsa has been accepted by the pride.

In the final elegiac paragraph, Adamson returns to her “studio” by the river to continue writing the story of Elsa, “who had been with us until this morning.” Sad to be alone, the author writes that she tries to make herself happy “by imagining that at this very moment Elsa was rubbing her soft skin against another lion’s skin and resting with him in the shade, as she had often rested here with me.”

I cried. Again.

And that, friends, is the mark of a true classic.

 

Elsa on Camp Bed Photo Credit

 

 

Author’s note: This post was first published on Pages and Paws in June 2019. We thought it deserves a second run. – Mom and The Kimster


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20 Awesome Outdoor Classics for Kids!

Grays skies are clearing. Temperatures are inching upwards. Summer’s waiting in the wings. Even if you’re stuck inside, you can still roam the outdoors through books! Especially with Great Outdoors Month starting on Monday, June 1!

Welcome to another edition of Fine Wine Fridays! Featuring The Best in Rich, Full-Bodied Read-a-Likes and other cool stuff!

Today we’re highlighting 20 top outdoor titles for kiddos. These books are geared for children ages third through ninth grade, roughly.

All include strong characters, engaging plots, and superlative story-telling. All have stood the test of time. (You may detect a big canine bias here. Because as Kimber knows, everything is better with dogs. Yes sirree, Lassie! That goes double for the Great Outdoors!)

Besides. If you can’t go to the outside, we’ll bring the outside to you, inside with:

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“Born Free”: Timeless and Transcendent After All These Years

Have you ever re-discovered a book from your childhood that still has the power to move and profoundly impact you, even a half century after your initial read? If so, then you’ve found a true classic.

Pinterest

Joy Adamson’s Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds is such a book.

Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George. At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to release her to the Kenyan wilds where she was free born.

It’s probably the most moving and inspiring “animal story” I’ve ever read.

Joy Adamson wrote three books about African lions: Born Free, Living Free, and Forever Free. I read them all. Born Free is my favorite.

I first read Born Free in 1969, nine years after it was first published. I was in the fifth grade. Entranced, I read it over and over. There’s something timeless and transcendent about the story that’s difficult to put into words.

I lost track of Adamson and Elsa over the years. But I never forgot the extraordinary story of a free born lioness and the humans who loved her. I recently located a library copy of Born Free. Finally.

Elsa and “Born Free” author Joy Adamson.

Opening the Forward to the Fortieth Anniversary Edition (2000), I was startled to learn that Joy Adamson was stabbed to death by a disgruntled former employee in 1980. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I’d lost a best friend I’d never met. So it was with a mixed sense of sadness and reverence that I sat in a sun-soaked living room in a far corner of the Olympic Peninsula nearly thirty years after that sad event and re-opened a book that profoundly impacted my life, especially with regard to animals.

Lavishly illustrated with black and white photographs, Elsa’s story is still an unforgettable one. So is Adamson’s prodigious writing talent. Her breezy, bucolic style recalls another formidable literary talent who writes so evocatively about her life in Kenya: Isak Dinesen. Like Dinesen, Adamson’s descriptions of her life as the wife of a senior game warden in East Africa have a luminous quality that is almost melodic.

My favorite photo from the book. Joy Adamson and Elsa.

I read Born Free cover to cover in one sitting. Here’s a key line, from page 109:

“Her (Elsa’s) good-natured temperament was certainly due in part to her character, but part too may have come from the fact that neither force nor frustration was ever used to adapt her to our way of life. For we tried by kindness alone to help her to overcome the differences that lie between our two worlds.”

The Adamsons and Elsa succeed beyond all expectations.

Re-reading the last chapter, The Final Test, the same intense sense of sadness and loss these pages evoked in me five decades ago bubbled up again from some deep internal well. It was as if Elsa and her human pride had never left, patiently waiting 50 years for my return to their story.

Recording Elsa’s success in finding her own wild pride and mate, Adamson writes:

“We returned to camp alone, and very sad. Should we leave her now, and so close a very important chapter of our lives?”

The Adamsons decide to wait “a few more days” to make sure Elsa has been accepted by the pride.

In the final elegiac paragraph, Adamson returns to her “studio” by the river to continue writing the story of Elsa, “who had been with us until this morning.” Sad to be alone, the author writes that she tries to make herself happy “by imagining that at this very moment Elsa was rubbing her soft skin against another lion’s skin and resting with him in the shade, as she had often rested here with me.”

I cried. Again.

And that, friends, is the mark of a true classic.

 

 

Elsa on Camp Bed Photo Credit