Little Children

By Tom Perrotta. I am not a mother, have never lived in the suburbs (let alone an American one), and I’m currently not in a romantic relationship. Also, all these characters are older than me by at least a decade. So I would say I am not at a point in my life to be able to relate to any of this book’s characters and their problems. I did end up relating to some of them because I found the narrative inviting. The back of the hardcover edition has Newsweek calling Tom Perrotta “an American Nick Hornby: companionable and humane, light hearted and surprisingly touching.” That’s funny because Hornby is the reason I picked up this book in the first place. He warmly reviewed the book in Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, his second book of literary essays. Kate Winslet being in the film adaptation sealed the deal. I think the comparison is actually rather apt. I found that Todd’s early scenes in the book reminded me right away of Hornby’s style. I would say that Perrotta is slightly more melancholic and darker than Hornby. The description still stands more or less, as I was able to emphasize and feel for most of the characters in this book.

Perrotta uses third person omniscient narrator on many characters. I like that you can get an idea of so many people, and he pulls it off. Many characters can also take away from the main adultery plot because novels about affairs can be tiresome so instead of being exasperated by Todd and Sarah, I found I was very curious between chapters about what they were up to.

Early on though, the affair reminded me slightly of Kar Wai Wong’s film In the Mood for Love. It was the sort of ephemeral, earnest and slightly sad nature of the two people connecting. Though Perrotta is not as pensive as Wong. The novel’s suspense seemed to indicate a sensational ending which I dreaded, but the ending was fine in the end, more or less. For the most part, the book kept my attention through out, and I found the characterizations well thought out. There is nothing excessively flowery or postmodernist about his prose, and it moved the story and characters along with relative ease. I’m not interested in reading his new novel The Abstinence Teacher any time soon (maybe for the film adaptation?), but this was a fine read.

It took me two days to finish this movie which made the film feel slow for me, but that’s my fault. It was a fine adaptation that was true to the book because Tom Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay. A few changes in the story. They changed Todd’s name to Brad because the director and co screenwriter is Todd Field. Patrick Wilson could be a Todd. Also, I was wondering if the movie’s ending would add on to the one in the book, and it didn’t really. The ending was more lurid than the book, which is appropriate for a film I guess. The pedophile casting and plot was more sympathetic than in the book.

Sarah in the novel is described as frumpy, plain, and not conventionally pretty. I had already seen clips of the movie before reading the book so I couldn’t help putting Winslet’s face in my mind as Sarah when reading the book. The passages about Sarah’s beauty didn’t connect as well in this cases because I adore Kate Winslet and thinks she’s beautiful as a film star and as a real woman. I find her more attractive than Jennifr Connelly who played Brad’s wife Kathy in the film. Though, makeup did a good job of making Winslet frazzled and plain.

They added a narrator, voiced by Will Lyman, into the film. It would seem like an unnecessary, somewhat cheap tool to use in a film adaptation because it becomes that third omniscient narrator, but I liked it. It made it feel a bit like a documentary. Not like Discovery channel animal documentary, but more like a PBS anthropological one.

There were a few humorous touches, but not enough for this film to move faster. If I hadn’t read the book, I don’t know if I would have appreciated the characters or the ending as much as I do. In these cases, I recommend to read the book and watch the movie together rather than go the movie alone. You just get a better sense of everything in the story that way.