From Orange is the New Black to The Haunting of Hill House, many of Netflix's greatest hits have been adapted from books. It is a hobby of many a bookworm to read the book and then watch the movie (or television show) adaptation to see what the producers got right or wrong and inevitably comment "the book was better than the movie." So we should all rejoice in the fact that there is a seemingly endless succession of 'book to Netflix' offerings to stream and dissect. The following are some books turned 2020 Netflix Originals you may wish to read...and then watch.
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots is a 2012 memoir by Deborah Feldman that chronicles the author's life growing up in a Jewish Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in Willamsburg, New York, and how she eventually breaks free of that community to live a life in the secular world. The memoir has received quite a bit of backlash since it was released, with many critics stating that Feldman's experience is not representative of Satmar Hasidim. Nonetheless, it offers an interesting, eye-opening account of her personal experience navigating her family's strict expectations and religious interpretations. The Netflix miniseries is quite a bit different than the book. It mostly focuses on the protagonist's life after she leaves her community (using flashbacks to provide context) and it is significantly more dramatic than the real-life story.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, an investigative true crime book first published in 2013, delves into the lives and families of five women who were murdered by a serial killer who stalked Long Island in the late-aughts. The women were prostitutes who lived on the fringes of society, and the police's investigation efforts were underwhelming if not negligent. Consequently, the killer is still at large. The book is less interested in the police procedural angle, and more focused on the backstories of the victims, respectfully considering what led them to such a risky line of work. Kolker, who is also the writer of current hit Hidden Valley Road, is an acclaimed journalist with impressive credentials. Further to his credit, Lost Girls lacks the pulpy, exploitative style one may associate with true crime stories. The movie adaptation, released on Netflix in January, primarily focuses on the tough-as-nails mother of one of the women and her quest to hold get to the bottom of what happened to her daughter.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo follows Li Lan, a young woman from a family that was once prestigious but is in decline in Malaysia, 1893. Unbeknownst to her, she had been betrothed to the second heir of the wealthy Lin Family, Tian Bai. But when the first heir dies, the family wants Tian Bai to marry for status and they ask Li Lan's father if she will marry their dead son and become his ghost bride. This is a seldom used custom where a living person is married to a dead person and assumes the role of their widow for the rest of their lives. After she refuses in the face of intense pressure, the spirit of the dead son, an intriguing character in his own right, begins to haunt Li Lan. The Netflix version, a television series, is a bit soapy but still wonderfully weird. Plus, the setting is fantastic.
This article was originally published in The Napanee Beaver.