Ann Cleeves: Book and Screen

It was the Shetland TV series that sent me in search of Ann Cleeves’ books.

However, the first I bought weren’t the Shetland stories but her Vera Stanhope series, some of which had also been adapted for TV as Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn.

telling-talesAfter reading some of those books I started watching episodes of the Vera TV series but was disappointed by  the differences between book and screen version.

This was most noticeable when I watched the TV adaptation of Telling Tales immediately after I finished the book. The book was still very fresh in my mind, so the changes made, and significant shortcuts taken, to condense it into a 90 minute TV episode were obvious and hindered my enjoyment of it as a story in its own right.

The first episodes of Vera that worked for me were those written specifically for the series and not adapted from a novel. They appeared more complete, not having the disadvantage of seeming like something important was missing from the story.

Raven Black was the first of the Shetland books I read.

It was after I saw the TV version but the reading experience wasn’t compromised by already knowing the story.
There are still significant differences. The TV show added characters and made changes to others, but most of the story itself remained intact.

Cleeves’ stories are strongly character driven. While murder is central to the plot,  the pleasure of reading (and watching) comes through the insights given into lives of the characters,  how they are shaped by their community, and vice versa.

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