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The Descendants

I have never been a fan of movie tie-in, especially when a blockbuster is made out of some unknown novel. I don’t always watch the movie even after I have read the book, but I never watch a movie before I read the original. That said, I have resisted George Clooney’s film adaptation because I have not had a chance to read The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. I was aiming to read it all in one weekend, except the reading plan was pleasantly interrupted by a trip up to the Napa wine country to taste the pinot noir and to appreciate the fall colors. After reading an article in Wall Street Journal, I push the book up on my list. The Descendants was Hemmings’s first novel. A former Stegner fellow (any correlation to Wallace Stegner catches my attention) at Stanford University, she had published a well-received book of short stories entitled House of Thieves in 2005. Contemporary Hawaii is the setting for both books and the decaying aristocracy of the Hawaiian islands is their recurring theme. So far I’m touched by the story of a detached father who’s forced to become more involved in his two daughters’ lives after an accident involving his wife and their mother, perhaps because of his personal experience in parenting a young daughter. Humor exudes from his exchange with his 10-year-old daughter, who gets in trouble for making inappropriate mark about her peer, and with his help Esther, who uses lard in her cooking. Now that I have filled out my absentee ballot and put election off my mind, I can really focus on reading.

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12 Responses

  1. I thought the movie was pretty good, actually, and I had read the novel prior to seeing it. They included some authentic touches (using a carport as an outdoor living room; the pidgeon English spoken by many natives, the attire) which rounded out the film nicely. Hemmings’ novel is very loosely based on a real story involved the Fairbanks / Campbell (as in Joseph Campbell) holdings in the islands.

  2. I’ve seen the movie and thought it was well done. It seemed based on a good, solid story, so I’ll definitely be interested to read your final thoughts on the book. (And as an aside, here’s hoping we get four more years.)

    • That George Clooney made a movie out of this novel turned me away from it. I’m glad I re-considered it when I stumbled upon a copy that does not have the movie tie-in cover in Dallas. She has a keen sense of family dynamics and humanity.

  3. I haven’t seen the movie or read the book, but I like your short introduction to it! I am interested to know what you think about the book once you finish!

  4. I usually can’t watch the movie then read the novel (or vice versa); one of them usually sets expectations of story or character so that I’m disappointed by either the movie or the book. Such is the case with Frank Herbert’s Dune. I loved the movie, and then tried the book, giving up after 50 pages because I couldn’t reconcile the two versions.

    • I haven’t seen the movie but now I’m most likely will. t first I was turned off by it because it was such a big hype. Hemmings’ writing is very thoughtful but unsentimental. I hope she continues to write.

  5. Any book that is set in Hawaii, one of my favorite places to travel, has my attention! I hope to hear that you enjoyed the book and also had a chance to see the film.

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