Double Trouble Review: The Lovely Bones (Book + Film)

Double Trouble Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Genre: Contemporary Literature
Recommend: This book is a beautiful one, I don’t know how to describe it. If you can tolerate pain, horror and violence then this book is a good read. It isn’t gratuitous or meant to be some horror book. It’s a beautiful reflection on tragedy.
Favourite Line: Because horror on Earth is real and it is every day. It is like a flower or like the sun; it cannot be contained.

Summary: The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder — a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family’s need for peace and closure.
Reading Challenges: Book To Movie Challenge
More Information: GoodReads

It is always interesting to read a book and then see it come to life on a very large screen, and sometimes it is the other way around. I enjoyed both the book and the film, with Sebold’s book ultimately pushing ahead in the polls. The film is good but has some serious flaws. Enjoy this smash-up.

The Lovely Bones Book

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2006
Source + Date Read: Borrowed Audiobook + March 2013
Book Pro’s: Beautifully written
Book Con’s: Lengthy, I really wanted this to be about 50 pages less.

First let me say straight off the bat, I don’t recommend listening to this via audiobook. Sebold’s wordy style and the twists and turns in the content don’t make for a successful audio version of it. I did enjoy physically reading the book though.

Where do I begin? Sebold explores tragedy, violence and human emotion in a powerful book. Susie Salmon, the novel’s narrator tells us of her rape and murder from heaven and she later watches down on her family and loved ones. As such, she documents their grief, terror and subsequent peace and healing as they struggle to overcome and comes to grief with the loss of 14-year-old Susie. What makes this especially hard is that the police never find Susie’s body. Each member of her family processes their grief differently. Her mother is unable to deal with Susie’s death and balks under the strain of raising a family. She is independent and eventually crumbles under the strain of it all, abandoning her family. Her father becomes obsessed with finding Susie’s murderer which isolates him from his wife and in a small way, his children. Her siblings process it in a more concise way, with stone faces.

There are many beautiful parts to this book. Sebold writes with such beauty, that even the most horrible bits are said in such a calming and illuminating way. What I loved most about the book is that Sebold treats each grief, each pain and equally important- no one’s grief usurps another. What I also love is her inclusion of growth and healing in a non-cheesy fashion, as well as her inclusion of a non-religious, deChristianized heaven. New relationships blossom from Susie’s death and in each characters grief they are able to make or strengthen some bond or friendship with another human being. This is best exemplified in the quote below, which is also the final paragraph of the book:

These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections-sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent-that happened after I was gone.

Plus, the word bone is my favourite in the English language.

The Lovely Bones Film

Film Pro’s: Visually stunning
Con’s: Oh man, Susie pissed me off in the film!
I both enjoyed and did not enjoy this film. Hear me out first.

The film is a stunning one. I truly enjoyed the Director’s insistence of a visual film as it transformed Seabold’s words in unique ways. This visualness also lended itself to the film’s authenticity I believe, as it could have had the makings of a kitschy violent film. Rather, its bold colors and digitally rendered scenes transformed Susie’s heaven into a true teenagers world. Characterization was also well done, each seemed to fit into their literary molds so well that I can’t imagine anyone else playing Susie or her family.

What did annoy me about this film was the exclusion of some key events from the book. Those events would have pushed the film’s rating to that of an R, and I understand the financial success of a PG-13 film but those purposeful omissions took away from the overall stellar-ness of the film. Why do we not meet Ray Singh’s mother? Why isn’t Ruth fleshed out more? And why the hell does Susie’s mother end up in an orange grove? HUH? I guess I am a bit of a purist when it comes to the translation of book to film.

What did everyone think? Are you Team Book or Team Film? I preferred the book but that’s just me. I rarely prefer the film over the book.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Film, Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Double Trouble Review: The Lovely Bones (Book + Film)

  1. Pingback: Quirky’s Reads 2013 | Bitches With Books

  2. I LOVED this book. It seems that people either love it or hate it. It was recommended to me when one of my youth saw me pick up Lullabies for Little Criminals (Awesome book!) because her gf had read and loved both. So I got ’em both.
    The movie, for me, was okay. Probably because I watched long enough after reading the book, so I “forgot” it a little. I agree with you on the parts they should have included though.

  3. Love the new look of the blog!!!

    I read Lovely Bones and loved it but didn’t see the movie.

  4. Thanks for passing by my blog.

    I haven’t had the chance to read the book yet, so I’m not able to make a comparison.

    From a cinematic narrative, it may not be satisfying, but it felt like they had to really concentrate on the after effects of Susie’s disappearance/murder on her family with the effects on people like Ray in the background.

    I thought the visuals were effective in depicting Susie’s version of Limbo along with her interactions with the living side.

  5. Kelley says:

    I read this book a while back, but I have yet to be able to see the movie. It sounds like they made some annoying changes and omissions in the movie, so I’d probably be kinda disappointed too. I can see why they would omit Ray’s mother, though, because she didn’t have as hefty of a part as many of the others, but still. Anyway, great review. I liked getting to read your thoughts on both book and film.

    • bwithbooks says:

      I’m such an anal person when it comes to the translation of a book to film. Sometimes it works out amazingly and sometimes, it’s a big let down. I’m pro book so when the film is good, I’m super excited!

  6. Heather says:

    Funny you should review this particular book/movie combo. I was JUST saying to Eric on Wednesday that I really need to watch the movie. I read the book years ago and really liked it, but I have yet to watch the film. I’ve been putting it off because I’m almost always disappointed by movie adaptations of books. Because I haven’t read the book in so long, I think I’ll enjoy the movie more than I would have if I read/watched back-to-back.

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