17 September 2020

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid was another quarantine order for me and is definitely my favourite of the books I picked up. I was listening to a podcast talking about upcoming movies and they started talking about Charlie Kaufman's new project and the host mentioned how great the source material is. After googling it I knew I'd be into it. 

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is Canadian author Iain Reid's debut book. It's just over 200 pages long but I read it in less than 48 hours because it is so unsettling and compelling. I had a hard time ever putting it down because I needed to know what would happen. Before Kaufman's movie adaptation released on Netflix, I had heard a few people mention how this book is seemingly "unadaptable" and they were curious how he'd approach it. 

The most basic way to describe this book is to say it's about a young woman going to meet her new boyfriend's parents. She is questioning her relationship from the beginning and is "thinking of ending things." Once they get to the family farm things become more and more strange.

How do we know when something is menacing? What cues us that something is not innocent? Instinct always trumps reason."

Reid's book goes back and forth between the events between the young couple and brief conversations between people in the community gossiping about a grisly death at the local high school. The majority of the book is set in a car. You get a lot of internal dialogue from the young woman, but also some of their arguments and musings as a couple. Throughout the book Jake (the boyfriend) argues that a thought is more genuine and truthful than an action can ever be.

Allegory, elaborate metaphor. We don't just understand or recognize significance and validity through experience. We accept, reject, and discern through examples."

I don't want to say much more about the plot because it's best to go into this not knowing what to expect. I would definitely recommend checking the book out before watching Kaufman's movie on Netflix. The book is so short and is easy to blast through before committing to the movie. I really think reading the source material will make the movie more enjoyable and a little more clear. 

Jesse Plemmons and Jessie Buckley in the movie adaptation

The movie stars Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemmons as the young couple. I would say the movie is pretty faithful to the source material but with a few differences. I found the scenes at the farm were more obvious and not as subtle as in the book. Kaufman also shoehorns a lot of his abstract cinematic approaches into the last 30 minutes (including dancing, musicals, etc). 

But something he added that I really loved was all sorts of literary and movie references. The couple recites poems and movie reviews, and talk about books they've read and paintings they like. Of course this isn't done in the way you'd think ... the two aren't bonding over shared interests, it's more a depressing reflection on how sad and lonely it is to be alive. 

A memory is its own thing each time it's recalled. It's not absolute. Stories based on actual events often share more with fiction than fact. Both fictions and memories are recalled and retold. They're both forms of stories. Stories are the way we learn. Stories are how we understand each other. But reality only happens once."

I would say the major differences between the two is that the book is more creepy and reads a bit like a horror, whereas the movie feels infinitely more depressing. BUT, both are really excellent and I'd recommend you check them out. Honestly, both would benefit from revisiting more than once. 

1 comment:

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