Saturday, 4 July 2020

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Paws For Reaction Summer Reading List
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Have you ever wanted to get inside the mind of every character in a story? Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng delivers on that in a way that no other book I've read ever has. The author delivers the perspective of so many characters seamlessly, leaving the reader empathetic for the unique struggle that each character faces. And hating each of them just a little bit. It's impossible to know whose side you're on.



Ng may be one of the best authors I've ever read. Her ability to inspire the reader to picture things perfectly in their head is a testament to her masterful art of setting a scene. I'm also a huge sucker for anything set in the 90s,s I was particularly drawn to this book. The references triggered some serious nostalgic vibes. 


Shaker Heights is a progressive community- by 90s standards- where Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl decide to settle down after a lifetime of nomadic travel. Mia is an artistic photographer and Pearl is a hyper-intelligent highschool student. They rent their home from the Richardson family. The Richardsons are the embodiment of Shaker Height's class and values. The clash between race, classism, and lifestyle add fuel to the fire when the Warrens and the Richardsons are divided on a custody case between a co-worker of Mia's and old friends of the Richardsons. 


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Put this book on your must-read list. The only thing I fault this book for is that despite creative prose and a riveting plot, the ending really fell short for me. After the descriptiveness of the book and journey of self-discovery that the many characters took, the book just ended flatly. It wasn't nearly as unsatisfying as The Handmaid's Tale's 'any questions' abrupt ending, but it still left me wanting. Did the author leave enough of an open-ended conclusion to warrant another book? Perhaps. But I felt that the ending wasn't a reflection of how good the story was. 


Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng



The book VS the TV series *SPOILER ALERT*


When I finished the book, I was really looking forward to watching the Hulu TV adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. As a TV series, if you have not read the book, is it good? Yes, it's an entertaining show. If you've read the book? It's a huge letdown and frankly it just made me angry.


I hate to use such a strong word, but what the series did to the characters disgusted me. In the book, Mia is a likable, stoic character. She's a virgin, and while you don't always agree with her choices, you empathize with her. In the show, they've reduced Mia to a drug-using, casual sex having angry lesbian. She's so unlikeable, especially when she kicks Lexie out of her home after Lexie's abortion. In the book, she mothers Lexie for days after, taking her under her wing. It is the part in the book when Mia is the most likable- but in the show, it's the part where you hate her most. 


The TV series did the same thing to Elena, writing her as an adulterer which was not in the book. Her strained relationship with Izzy is explained in the book as Izzy having an illness when she's born and her fragility making Elena worry about her more. In the TV series, they chalk it up to Elena not wanting a fourth child. Elena's strained relationship is about resentment in the show- in the book, it is strained because she loves her too hard.


I didn't like that they removed the complexity of the children's stories too. There have been many near-perfect book to film or TV adaptations that celebrate the story- think Harry Potter, Gone Girl, and The Virgin Suicides. They stay true to the essence of the book. Then there have been some terrible ones that alter the story and characters in such an unnecessary and nonsensible way. These movies stand alone as good movies, like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, when the movie switched the female protagonist out for another character because it was more marketable, or Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is a movie I love but is nothing like the novella, but as adaptations of the book, they are a frustrating disappointment. 


The ending in the TV series is different than the ending in the book, and I don't see why that was a necessary change. The book is so good! I have a feeling they are going to Thirteen Reasons Why the hell out of this show, meaning that it will return for multiple seasons so they can beat it with a dead horse and stray so far away from the story that it's unrecognizable. I give the show a 2 out of 5 stars. The TV series strangled all the empathy out of the book, which is what made the story so remarkable in the first place.



Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Paws For Reaction Summer Reading List



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