Billy Elliot: A Novel Based on a Motion Picture by Melvin Burgess: A Book Review

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I am also into reading novelized movies aside from watching adapted movies. I tend not to be content with watching movies with my mouth agape; I want to understand the whole story completely, for there are times that I can’t follow the dialogues because I’m not much familiar with accent with which characters speak.

Billy Elliot is the only movie that comes to my mind when someone asks me what my favorite movie is. It is a British dance drama film about an eleven-year-old boy desiring to be a professional ballet dancer. However, both his father and brother are inculcated in the negative stereotype of the male ballet dancer. Males into this kind of art in western society in the early 19th century were said to be weak, effeminate, or homosexual. In short, all boys in his countryside are supposed to do things only for males. So, it is a big decision for Billy, especially both his father and brother are miners struggling against the government’s plan to close all coal mines.

Reading the novelized movie has made me love the movie more. The novel and the movie have the same scenes. The dialogues became crystal-clear to me. The characters’ voices were even echoing through my head except Billy’s famous lines when a tutor asks him what he feels when he’s dancing. In the book, it goes, “When I dance, my body is full of fire, and I forget everything.”, but in the movie:

“Don’t know. Sorta feels good. Sorta stiff and that, but once I get going… then I like, forget everything. And… sorta disappear. Sorta disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. And I’ve got this fire in my body. I’m just there. Flyin’ like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity.”

Also, it seems that the novel has been expurgated for the F-words steeped in the film. In the movie, I could almost hear quite a few bad words which seem to be a common way of communication among early Irish people. No doubt the movie has been censored for young audience as far as I know.

On the other hand, I have proven that Billy is not gay at all. Count me in those people who have the negative stereotype of the male ballet dancer. I deserve to be pilloried in public or put to the sword.(laughs)

The story is narrated by the main characters: Billy, Jack , his father; Tony, his older brother, and Michael, his gay best friend. So, I did not have a hard time reading it. In fact, the sequence of the plot is almost similar to the movie.

After reading it, I watched my favorite scenes in the movie again: when Billy dances to his father’s presence, when he auditions at the ballet school (definitely one of the unforgettable scenes) when one of the school tutors asks him what he feels when he dances, when he opens the letter whether he is in or not, when his father and brother go watch his major ballet concert and come across  his gay best friend Michael- the leave-me-in-the-air finale.

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My favorite scene in the movie when Billy dances to his dad’s presence

The major moral lesson of the story which is why it is one of my most favorite movies is that follow your dream no matter how harsh the culture you conform to. Such dilemma is still typical of our culture nowadays. There are still different traditional norms women and men should follow.

Aside from the novelized movies Billy Elliot and Brokeback Mountain, I also want to read the novelizations of Eclipse and Beach(2000) in which both starred by Hollywood actor Leonardo Dicaprio, Braveheart  directed  by and starring Mel Gibson,  3 Idiots (1999,India). I also wish that there are some available for my favorite pink movies such as Love of Siam (2007, Thailand), Boys Love 1 (Bōizu Rabu) (2006, Japan), and Prayer for Bobby ( 2009, USA), to name a few. 🙂

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)


Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review



Reading another Marilynne Robinson’s work is another heavenly and fulfilling achievement. Her novels are arresting because they deal with family situations, imbued with suppressed  feelings we may relate to , conveyed in unconventionally recoiling ,but  creatively poetic prose- her writing style  which turns out to be acceptable  in literature.

For me, Robinson is one of the writers I have known so far whose prose is so powerful that I could be overwhelmed with the covert feelings. No wonder I had been looking for this novel for a long time. In fact, I don’t even brush off the idea of why Gilead  has been the pandemonium among literary readers on Goodreads whenever her name is being brought up. I wish to find it at an affordable price and in pristine condition.

Since her novels Home and  Lila had a great emotional impact on me , I have found that there seems to be preternatural effects while reading her work. I am not sure of her other works, but three of hers are enough to bear witness to my delusional claim. The hidden and adamant emotions tend to ooze out despite they are coated with her unorthodox or unconventional prose. Unorthodox or unconventional prose because Robinson writes sentences beyond literary rules. Compare hers with Irish writer Colm Tóibín‘s in his impressive The Master for instance. For this reason, reading her novels may appear to be hard, heavy, nose-and-brain bleeding except her Home because I was so into it and lost track of time, the springboard for my interest in reading another Robinson works. Thus, reading her works may require a matter of multi-tasking concentration. I wonder if native speakers get what I am jabbering about.  Nevertheless, I could feel the ghostly restricted atmosphere of the story: the gloominess, the sadness, the sense of loss, the joyfulness, the hatred, the desires – all the feelings that have   been harbored for a long time because of the past that should have been left behind the presence.

Housekeeping, aside from being in the Guardian’s 1001-Best- Novels-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die list, is included by TIME magazine as one of 100 Best English-language Novels since 1923 to 2005. Lila and Home   have been added recently by the Guardian if I am not mistaken. Comparatively and subjectively speaking, Home is my favorite. I cried over it a lot. I felt the withered or dormant emotions Robinson wanted her readers to blow up. I felt the cathartic tears flowing down my cheeks. It was a therapeutic experience. The story is psychologically realistic after all. Besides, it really reminded me of my cold conflict with my father then. However, with respect to creativity, magical mastery for writing a novel, Lila and Housekeeping stand out. They have proven Robinson’s unparalleled, incomparable writing skills- her ability to dramatically animate the story despite it is covered with bricks of “suppressible” prose, and that is something I would say Robinson’s trademark. Gotcha?

The big challenge for me next time since Robinson is known for her heavy prose is how to finish her novel. I admit that it took me a few days before I managed to finish it given that it is not that as ambitious as her other works. I was like an adventurous book traveler lost in a chimerical book land trudging through different places to reach its revealing denouement. Good grief! I made it, but the experience is not traumatic. Rather, the proverb,” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” popped into my mind, and I mustered enough courage to do so. There it is! Eureka! Marilynne Robinson is a gifted writer, indeed, someone all literary readers should celebrate about. So, count me in!!!

Ironically, Gilead ( 2004), Home (2008), and Lila ( 2014) are supposed to be a trilogy , but I first read Home and Lila consecutively. Housekeeping is Marilynne Robinson’s first novel.

When I reviewed Robinson’s Home before, I predicted that she would belong to my roller or  walk of favorite writers. It was like letting her first pass through the hole of my needle before she meets my standard. Taray! (laughs) However, after reading her Lila, her application for that is still pending. (Figuratively laughing) To put it bluntly, I have aversion to reading books dealing with religious convictions no matter how good they are. Apparently, most of Robinson’s novels are steeped in religion or faith. Who won’t forget Rev. James and Rev. Boughton? Ok fine! I am biased! (laughs) Nevertheless, Housekeeping is another stepping stone for me to explore Robinson’s great mind. I have learned that there is no such a perfectly standardized novel. What matters most is the deep connection between a reader and a story, and that’s something I will learn to practice on my writing styles. As what Virginia Woolf put it, “ A book has a soul.”

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)