Adaptation: ENCHANTED AUGUST (Giveaway)



9781611764369by Brenda Bowen
& E-Book: Pamela Dorman Books | Jun 02, 2015 | 320 Pages
Audio: Penguin Audio | Jun 02, 2015 | 8 hours, 37 minutes |Read by:  Sierra Boggess

Audiobook provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

Set on a picture-perfect island in Maine, a sparkling summer debut that offers readers a universal fantasy: one glorious month away from it all
On a dreary spring day in Brooklyn, Lottie Wilkinson and Rose Arbuthnot spot an ad on their children’s preschool bulletin board:

Hopewell Cottage
Little Lost Island, Maine.
Old, pretty cottage to rent on a small island.
Springwater, blueberries, sea glass.

Neither can afford it, but they are smitten—Lottie could use a break from her overbearing husband and Rose from her relentless twins. On impulse, they decide to take the place and attract two others to share the steep rent: Caroline Dester, an indie movie star who’s getting over a very public humiliation, and elderly Beverly Fisher, who’s recovering from heartbreaking loss. If it’s not a perfect quartet, surely it will be fine for a month in the country.

When they arrive on the island, they are transformed by the salt air; the breathtaking views; the long, lazy days; and the happy routine of lobster, corn, and cocktails on the wraparound porch. By the time of the late-August blue moon, real life and its complications have finally fallen far, far away. For on this idyllic island they gradually begin to open up: to one another and to the possibilities of lives quite different from the ones they’ve been leading. Change can’t be that hard, can it?

With a cast of endearingly imperfect characters and set against the beauty of a gorgeous New England summer, Enchanted August brilliantly updates the beloved classic The Enchanted April in a novel of love and reawakening that is simply irresistible.


My Take Oblong


One of my favorite movies has been ENCHANTED APRIL, a 1992 film directed by Mike Newell (IMDB) with actors both well, and not so well, known.  It has charmed me each time I have seen it.

So, the title ENCHANTED AUGUST on Penguin Random House’s tear sheet caught my eye.    You know how people adapt Shakespeare to the modern day, or how EMMA was adapted to become CLUELESS and P & P became Bridget Jones’ Diary? This is in the same vein: where ENCHANTED APRIL is about a group of Edwardian-era British escaping to Italy for an April break, ENCHANTED AUGUST is about a group of modern-day New Yorkers escaping to, Little Lost Island, a small Shangri-La of an Island off the Downeast part of Maine (the Northern-most coastal area).

According to Wikipedia, ENCHANTED APRIL was a

…film adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel, “The Enchanted April,” directed by Mike Newell. The novel was previously adapted as a stage play by Kane Campbell in 1925, and as an RKO Radio film in 1935. A new, Tony Award-nominated stage adaptation of the novel by Matthew Barber debuted on Broadway in 2003.

According to me, this book stays remarkably close to the film; I cannot say how close it is to the original book.  But here is the question: It’s one thing to adapt a book to a play or movie, or adapt a play or a movie to a different time and/or place, but, what is it to rewrite a book with almost the same characters to a different time and place?  Is this art, imitation or downright copying?

There are a few changes in the plot: The reasons the women want the vacation are originally different from what drives them in the movie but in the end it is a sort of peace and solitude within themselves they crave; a rebuilding of themselves before they can repair their relationships with their significant others and the world in general.

Again, I have not read the 1924 novel so I cannot say how different, how more accessible or less accessible it is.  I know that prose style has changed in 90 years and so it may be that this is an easier read, more in tune with today’s needs and humor.  I cannot spoil other differences between the film and the book regarding plot or character since, with a retelling it is those changes — how the story was adapted — that are often the most interesting and telling things.

And location: In Victorian and Edwardian literature, Italy was both a wild and civilized place, a place of higher passions and wild humanity (as we see in Forrester’s ROOM WITH A VIEW).  “Italy” was distant land, a fairy tale, a concept that asked if we can have the higher passions of love and art and devotion without the darker sides of the same.

I don’t know that an island of the coast of Maine offers the same ideas of beauty wild and refined and the healing nature to the human psyche when these seemingly dichotomous ideas are reevaluated holistically.

One thing that has stayed the same is Lottie’s intuitive abilities.  These are not paranormal in the way of fantasy literature where they give someone power.  Her intuition is more along the lines of “everyday magic.” In either the film or here it enhances the other-worldliness of the getaway; it sets apart life before, during and after the trip.
The recording was charming, the reader’s voice evocative of cool, pine needle littered paths through gardens and woods, peaceful like a retreat. It was a very enjoyable listen.

But, the thing I had to ask throughout was why was this, or any other retelling without significant change, book written?  Why not just read the original tale? Have we changed so much in ninety years that the Edwardian story is less instructive, entertaining or enjoyable?  The popularity of the Jane Austen’s even older novels would say we have not. And, when Austen is mashed up it is the changes in genre, continuations of the storyline, or an appeal to a younger audience than happily reads the original.

I don’t think there is enough difference between the storylines in the film I saw and this text to say it is an original work.  It is more of a translation of the 1924 book combined with the 1992 film,  and the language and situations of today than it is an original idea.

If that is what you seek then this is a lovely vacation or beach read. It would be great fun to read the book and watch the movie; or read both books and watch the movie.

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