Andrea Mullarkey's Reviews > An Education

An Education by Nick Hornby
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Aug 02, 12

bookshelves: screenplay
Read in September, 2011

When a colleague told me we’d gotten this screenplay and that we now own the book, the screenplay and the movie I thought it would make a great choice for our Book Into Film series. For no reason I can fathom, I read the screenplay before the memoir. It was wonderful, witty and fast and a bit heart-breaking. After the screenplay I watched the film and was pleased to see that Lone Scherfig had captured all of that and the wonderful style of 1960s London.

Charmed by both the screenplay and the film I turned to Lynn Barber’s memoir. I knew that it covered her entire life and not just the one chapter on which the film was based. Encountering Barber’s direct prose and unembellished style I saw how a relatively short chapter could become a feature-length film. But what surprised me was how different the stories were. Hornby said in his introduction to the screenplay that he wanted to change the names of the leads to allow him some license with the story. But he took such license that I am not sure I would have recognized the story if I’d read them in the other order. There were certain moments that were lifted straight from Barber’s narrative and I could follow these like beads on a string. Still, I know why the opening credits say the film was “inspired by” Barber’s memoir.

Nevertheless, it was not so distracting that I couldn’t enjoy the book. Barber has led quite a life. Every era was fascinating from her child hood as the daughter of an elocution teacher through her young adult life as a party girl at Oxford and into her journalism career which took her from Penthouse to writing sex manuals and finally to writing for The Independent and Vanity Fair. Not every chapter is fun or funny, but each resonates with emotion and the excitement of a life fully lived. The story on which the film is based is simply another entertaining chapter in an engrossing story.

In the end I would say the best thing I did when reading these two was to read them in the order I did. As different as the screenplay is from the memoir I think I would have been disappointed if I became attached to the real Lynn Barber and then saw her life turned inside out for the film. But reading the screenplay first, I could enjoy Jenny and David’s story and then meet Lynn as her own person. And given that, I would recommend them both and encourage readers and viewers to save the memoir for after the screenplay and film.
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