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Archive for October, 2021

This is a novelisation of the 1993 film Philadelphia, which won Tom Hanks his first Academy Award. It’s important to note that the book is based on the film script rather than the film being adapted from the book, because when the book comes first there are usually at least some changes in the film. In this case however, the novel is quite literally a scene by scene story of the film, with the same dialogue throughout.

For anyone who isn’t aware, Philadelphia tells the story of a talented and successful lawyer named Andrew Beckett. He is gay and has full blown AIDS, which he has so far managed to keep to himself, his partner and family and his close friends. However, when the partners at the huge corporate law firm that he works at find out about his illness he is fired. Although they claim that it is due to the mediocre standard of his work, he is convinced that it is because of his illness and/or sexuality, and he decides to sue them. But finding a lawyer who will act for him in court proves difficult and he ends up hiring homophobic personal injury lawyer Joe Miller. Joe does not want to take the case because of his own prejudices, but his prevailing sense of fairness compels him to do so and now the two of them have to prepare for the biggest legal battle either of them have ever faced.

It’s virtually impossible to review the book without also reviewing the film, and while I have always considered both Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington to be superb in their respective roles in the film (Hanks is Andrew Beckett and Washington is Joe Miller), there are better films about HIV/AIDS crisis, and there are definitely better books about the subject.

Because the book is just a recap of the film, there is very little characterisation, because that all came through on screen. Consequently, all of the characters are basically cardboard cut-outs – Andrew is a brilliant and intelligent opera lover, Joe is a charismatic but prejudiced family man, Andrew’s partner Miguel is a hot-headed Spaniard. (Miguel’s character suffers the most from not being more fleshed out – I would have liked to have seen more about how he coped with his lover’s illness, in an emotional sense.)

The prose is certainly undemanding, despite the subject matter and I read the book very quickly. However, while it is perfectly functional, it never really does more than scratch the surface of the situation.

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This novel tells the story of two young women, trying to come to terms with their pasts. Georgetown Easy moved to small-town England with her mother and aunt when she was just a young girl, but she really wants to find the father she never knew. Her search takes on a physical and metaphorical journey.

Meanwhile Helena Jones knows her past, but wants to leave it where it belongs and escape the self-imposed confines of her life. Always at loggerheads with her layabout brother Troy, Helena has been the sensible twin for as long as she can remember, and now she is ready for change.

About 65% of the novel is narrated by Georgetown, and the remainder is mainly narrated by Helena. with a page short parts narrated by a young lady named Aurelie who blasts her way into the lives of the many characters, and leaves all of them changed.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Georgetown’s scenes and conversations with her mother and aunt are very believable and peppered with humour. I really liked her character and heart. Helena was less interesting to me, and without the difficult relationship between herself and Troy, she would not have been a particularly memorable character.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the novel because I did, although I think it started to lose it’s way somewhat towards teh end. The titel comes from the name of a blues bar where the characters often met and I must admit the scenes set there did make me wish there was somewhere like that near to where I lived!

Overall, an assured debut – I would probably read more by Kat Pomfret.

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