Tuesday 25 July 2017

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Book or movie?
"Both," I usually say. "Book first, then movie."

Except with this one, I didn't follow my own advice. I really wanted to see this with my husband before it left the big screen one Sunday afternoon. And I did. And I'm very glad I did.

When we came out of Suffragette last year, he was cringing, and I was trying not to hate him, and all men too much. This was different. Empowering, a movie for dreamers, for those who want to take on the world, full of reality and hardship, but also possibility, enterprise and magic.

So when I picked up the book, it was with no small degree of guilt. "You should have read this first" and "It's going to be so interesting - there is going to be so much more to it than the movie." Followed by "You're going to wish you'd done this the other way around."

Since I'm always so very honest here, let me say that I'm not sure I would have bothered with the movie if I'd done my usual thing. Heck, I'm not even sure I would have finished the book if I hadn't seen the movie first.

I'm firmly of the view that stories are fascinating, especially this one - the one about the mathematicians and engineers and computer programmers behind the men in the space race. They were female. These three were black. They were even called computers. I'm no movie writer/director, but even I can see some wonderful scenes, some clever dialogue. But sadly, of this, the book was completely devoid.

I know some of you have your "I love non-fiction" t-shirts on, and you are peering down at me right now - over the edges of your highly accurate horn-rimmed magnifying specs. But wait - I'm not suggesting that the truth is messed with in any way. I'm pointing out that when you have such great material, to pad it with long descriptions of where people went to school, who their relatives were, the detail of the work done at NACA, then NASA  in a very boring format is such a waste of that material. Tell us about their conversations about finding the "Coloured Toilets", or how they overcame the prejudice that they weren't good enough to put their names on papers they co-authored - what did they do? How did that dinner conversation go? Tell us their story, please.

The movie did that, beautifully. The book, not so much. It was all there, but the wow was drowned out by the many pages of trees killed to put us to sleep before we got there. This was a story that needed to be told, and kudos to the author for doing so, but it could have been done better.

Now aren't you grateful? You can see the movie, guilt-free, and never plow through the tome.

It's a pleasure.

2 stars

ISBN: 9780062363602

You may also enjoy Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

Some more books - 

And some for book club...



Elza Reads said...

Yea! I was wondering about this one. Think I'll just skip the book and go straight for the movie.

Lovely review Bev!

Bev Bouwer said...

Yes Mareli, straight to the movie, guilt free. Thanks for the compliment - it means a lot as I always enjoy your reviews. 😘