Today I'm posting a recent review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The book is very different from the movie. Leave a comment for a chance to win my copy of the book. Next Wednesday I'll choose the lucky winner and you can decide for yourself if the movie improved on the original story.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales of the Jazz Age by F Scott Fitzgerald
By Gail Pruszkowski
I saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" recently. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett is almost three hours long. It's an astonishing film that explores themes of life, death and love in the context of a man who ages backwards. It's unique and thought provoking, diverting and depressing. I knew it was adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald's book, I decided it was high time I read it. The book turned out to be a short story first published in Colliers Magazine in 1921. In an introduction to his story, Fitzgerald reflected that a quote by Mark Twain gave him the idea. This quote could be the one that inspired him, it certainly fits the premise.
"Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen." --Mark Twain
The movie differs from Fitzgerald's story. The title is the same, as is Benjamin's name, and the concept of aging backwards. Benjamin is born an old man. His father is horrified when he first sees him in the hospital - a seventy year old man with a beard who can actually talk. Benjamin's mother does not appear in the story at all. And unlike the movie, his father takes him home and raises him. He makes him shave, dye his hair and buys him toys so he can try and pass him off as a child. Years pass and its apparent Benjamin is looking younger and feeling better as he ages.
Eventually he attends a party with his father. The two look more like brothers than father and son and he attracts the attention of young Hildegarde, who likes older men. They fall in love and get married. Benjamin takes over his father's business, makes a lot of money and has a son. Unfortunately the younger/older he gets the less attracted he is to his wife and he goes off to fight in the Spanish-American War. Things are no better when he returns and he parties while his wife stays home.
Now looking twenty years old, he hands the business over to his son and enrolls in Harvard. But after a few years he can't keep up with his studies. When he's forced to come home his wife is gone, having moved to Italy. Benjamin moves in with his son and gets younger and younger.
This is an easy one hour read. Large chunks of time are skipped and a lot of years are covered for a short story. I enjoy fantasy and fables but this one bothered me from page one. What happened to the woman who gave birth to a grown man and was never heard from again? The other characters that appear in the story are never fully developed and none are particularly likeable, including Benjamin. The enduring love story in the movie is not in the book. The relationship between Benjamin and his wife is full of distain and intolerance. After reading the book it's understandable why it was changed for the film. A movie needs a hero everyone can sympathize with. And casting Brad Pitt didn't hurt either.
This may not be one of his best but Fitzgerald is a wonderful writer. And there are three others included in this collection that I enjoyed more.
"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is a coming-of-age story. Bernice visits her cousin Marjorie who transforms her from a dull and unpopular young woman to the belle of the ball. Things go well until she captures the interest of Marjorie's boyfriend.
In "The Jelly-Bean" Jim Powell is an idler, but an encounter with a beautiful woman makes him think about a better life - until alcohol destroys his dreams.
"Dalyrimple Goes Wrong," is the story of man who comes home from war a hero and becomes torn between working hard and taking the easy way out.
Publisher: Coyote Canyon Press (January 18, 2008)
Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.