Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bel Ami (Book Review)


Book: French novel Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant

Reason to Read: April Book Selection for the Book to Film Club, and the first translated book of the book club.

I was a little skeptical diving into Bel Ami, another period selection for the Book to Film Club set in 1885 and following a character pretty much described as a scoundrel. Who knew I would end up loving it. I loved that even though I had no sense of the time or place going into the book, I really felt like I could imagine being there, in Paris in 1880 and what it would have been like there in the excitement of the time as well as the challenges. I think that's really want got me into the book is that we start off with George Duroy at a time of great challenge and not much opportunity, and his knowing specificity of exactly how much will get him how far and for how long.

It's and odd thing that it's the specificity and exactness was what sucked me into the book, especially considering it's often described about the tale of a scoundrel and about a man who was with a lot of women, and although I can see that's what people could take from it, it's not really what I took. I took in the essence of the time, the resourcefulness of the character, and the fascinating and varying night life and social events. Where everything was about something of importance, but also felt like it meant nothing at all. It's the story of George Duroy and like Jane Eyre from earlier in this years book club feels like a fictional biography, as it follows a persons life in such detail that it does feel like you are almost reading their diary of thoughts. We are privy to Georges actions and choices, whether we agree with them or not, and because we've been with him the whole time we know and understand the history behind them. It's quite wild from that perspective and although he's not the most likeable character, I didn't actually find him unlikable. He had limited choices and made the best with the offers that came up, so much so that that seem to become habit and would continue to do so even if he didn't need to. He also had quite the way with the ladies, and this habit was very often put to into action here.

I found the book to be way more accessible than I expected from a translated-to-English and older book (1885), and I only occasionally needed to check the explanatory knows (woohoo putting that 12 years of French classes to work!). I also ended up liking the book and the character of George more than I expected, especially because of the charm and spirit of the time it was set in.

I'm very curious about the adaptation, especially as we still don't know when it will be released. I'm very curious about Robert Pattinson as George and a little worried as the role needs not only charisma (check!), starting off on not solid footing (check!) but also lots or romancing (likely fine), but also quite the journey and development of character over time (eep..that's where I'm worried). Although I didn't love him in Water for Elephants, I still still hold true that his performances in both Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Little Ashes were great, so I'm hoping we get a little more edge in the mix. As for the remaining character I'm over the moon thrilled to see Philip Glenister as Forestier because I adored him as Gene Hunt in "Life on Mars". As for the ladies - I hate to say it but I could barely keep all of them straight in the book so I'll be happy to see them in the film so I can figure out who the heck was who! Great line up of talent including Christina Ricci, Kristin Scott Thomas, Uma Thurman, Holliday Grainger and Natalia Tena.

Sadly, still no official film site, no trailer and no official stills (although this image just popped up), but I'm still hopeful that it will come out in 2011.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The likeable rogue. I think Rob could pull it off for sure.


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