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Joyce, Murdoch and Woolf on Film

It’s no surprise literary fiction novels make great movies. What surprises me is the literary fiction authors themselves (or their inspiration) also make good movies. It’s important to realize when watching movies based on real people a certain artistic license may have been taken to make the story more enticing. During filming a different direction often arises because it feels right to move the story there, just like writing a novel.

Here are three novelists and three movies depicting them:


Nora-Film-CoverIrish novelist, short story writer and poet James Joyce is considered one of the world’s greatest writers. He is best known for such works as Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. He was born in Dublin in 1882 and died in Zurich in 1941 at the age of 59 of a perforated ulcer. The movie Nora is about the woman and often inspiration in his life. Ewan McGregor plays James Joyce and Susan Lynch plays Nora Barnacle (Barrington). While the movie is titled after her it basically begins and ends with Joyce. Starting with their first encounter in 1904 and focusing mainly on his attempts to complete and publish the collection of short stories, Dubliners. The movie is beautifully shot and the accompanying music inviting.

Purchase Nora from Amazon.com.
Purchase Nora from Amazon.ca.


Iris-Film-CoverIris Murdoch, also born in Dublin but transposed to London was a novelist philosopher who had a prolific career producing over 20 novels. She is most famous for her first book Under the Net and The Sea, The Sea which won the 1978 Booker prize. She was born in 1919 and passed away from Alzheimer’s in 1999 at the age of 80. The movie, simply titled, Iris depicts her life through the eyes of her husband, novelist and professor John Bayley. It flips back and forth between her youth and the onset of her disease. Kate Winslet portrays her young spirit and Judi Dench captures it with the Alzeimers. Except for Kate’s hair it is a beautiful film of love, loss, respect and forgiveness.

Purchase Iris from Amazon.com.
Purchase Iris from Amazon.ca.

The Hours

The-Hours-Film-CoverVirginia Woolf, British author and feminist, is a significant literary figure especially for women. She is best known for such works as Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and A Room of One’s Own. She was born in London in 1882 and died in London in 1941 (a few months before and after Joyce). She was 59. The Hours is based on a Pulitzer novel by Michael Cunningham of the same name. Three women are connected the book Mrs. Dalloway in three different times. Nicole Kidman plays Virginia as she writes it. Julian Moore plays Laura who’s reading it. Meryl Streep is Clarissa whose nicknamed after it. It really only shows a glimpse into the life of this author but still the performances are stirring especially those of Kidman and Ed Harris.

Purchase The Hours from Amazon.com.
Purchase The Hours from Amazon.ca.

While film adds an interesting aspect to the authors they should only be looked at as a supplement. The best way to get to know an author is through their works.

Originally published 12/17/2005 on Literary Fiction, BellaOnline.

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