I’m a firm adherent to the doctrine of book before movie. To the extent possible, I believe one should always read a book before seeing its film adaptation.
I’m especially glad I followed my rule with today’s featured book.
The Beguiled has recently been transformed from a lesser-known ’60s novel into a Sophia Coppola-directed motion picture. I was intrigued by the film when I heard about it, however when I saw its mixed reviews from audiences and learned how far it strays from its subject matter, I made sure to pick up a copy of the book before buying a ticket.
Before I see any movie adaptation, I prefer to know each of the characters, their histories, and the subtleties of their personalities. This was especially important for The Beguiled. So much gets lost in translation (ha) from book to movie, especially when the film version is switching from a male perspective to a female one. Having read the book first makes the experience so much better.
Here’s my quick review of The Beguiled, and my thoughts on whether you should read it or not.
The Beguiled tells a careful tale of power and manipulation started by an injured Yankee soldier (Corporal John McBurney) stranded in a girls boarding school in enemy territory. McBurney struggles to unravel the stories of the people around him and use the information to his advantage—without being eaten alive first.
Written in 1966 by Thomas Cullinan, this novel has been adapted to movies twice – once by Clint Eastwood and, more recently, by Sophia Coppola. The book was almost impossible to find before the release of the newest movie, but it’s thankfully been republished by Penguin Books.
What I Loved About It:
- McBurney is such an entertaining character. Even as you see him manipulating the girls to make himself safe in an enemy home, you can’t help but warm up to him. He’s a flirt and he can always crack a joke, so it was really fun reading any passages with him in it!
- Each character is so different from the others, so they all stand out. Each one of them comes from a different background, and together they make up a group of diverse human beings. It seems like the only thing that ties them together is their overwhelming fascinating with the enemy soldier they harbor.
- The alternating points of view are spellbinding. With so many lies and secrets hiding in the school, the book’s constant switching of perspectives gives the reader a fantastic view into everything that’s happening. The suspense builds as the book goes on and more secrets are revealed. The ending is something that will stick with you long after you finish reading.
If you like historical fiction, this book is for you! It was interesting to read a civil war era book that focused not on the war but on the gray area of the alliances and beliefs that everyone had.
As well, if you’re thinking about watching the Sophia Coppola film, I highly recommend you read the book version first — it’s well worth it for a deep understanding of the characters and how Sophia as director changes the plot with her perspective.
Tell Us In The Comments!
Will you be reading this book? If you already have, what are your thoughts on it?
1 thought on “Book Review: The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan”
We have something in common except when I watched an old movie then discovered it was a dramatized version of a novel, I wanted to read it. There were many. Letter to Three Wives (movie) was Letter to Five Wives (novel). I found old mysteries I want to read that were made into movies.
It used to be that during the summer months some novels became mini-series like Rich Man Poor Man and of course every Steven King novel. I’ve read Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn, and more in school then watched them. You’re right. You learn more about characters from the books. And don’t get me started on the changes in the movie version.