I feel uncomfortable making this comparison – mostly because I got such extreme and opposing emotions from both. And that was completely unexpected.
Firstly the storyline in the TV series felt much more realistic. The situation. The motivation of Alice’s character, and the characters of the supporting cast. The show set up Alice as a determined mother trying to piece her life together and regain a foothold in the workforce… even if she had to get creative to do it. The tone set was serious with some light-hearted goodness through and through.
With the novel, I got the distinct impression that a bitter old lady was at the keyboard trying to make her point that getting old was not a bad thing… and it rubbed me the wrong way. The whole way Alice came about her decision to portray a younger version of herself felt unjustified and wishy-washy. It continued for a great length in the book.
You do get some of the funnier moments from the novel translated on to the small screen (well, all of the funnier moments), and I have to admit – the tv show is much, much funnier. I think that was another disappointment after reading the book – I expected so much more.
It’s not that it is a terrible read. In fact I enjoyed the book magnanimously – I did not put it down. The narrative is light and easy to relate to. I had issues with some of Alice’s decisions and behaviour at times, and at others, quietly whispering ‘YES!’
There was some stereotyping in the novel that annoyed the hell out of me – and the ending, although satisfying, it did little to challenge those preconceived personality types. Where in the tv series, you meet these characters, presumably fitting in the box, two-dimensional-types, and then are completely toss all judgements out the window by the end of an episode, because they have completely redeemed themselves and shown you so many more layers… and I think that is what the book lacked most of all.
The screen version of Alice, played by Sutton Foster, added more tension to the tv series than the character in the book – her reason to keep her secret is compelling in every episode, where in the book she was playing pretended and it did not feel like she had a s much to lose.
The conclusion of the book picked up the pace and I loved the last five – six chapters. But I found the ending of season one of the tv show much more satisfying, even though it resolved a lot less of the storyline… The main reason is because of the growth of the characters and their chemistry between each other. The novel was a little trite, where the show makes them work for it…
So it’s definitely the tv show for the win! But I recommend both.
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