The book did it better: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Aoife Rooney praises Hulu for it’s new mini-series Little Fires Everywhere, but ultimately concludes the book did it better.

Traditionally with book-to-film adaptations, the viewer often finds themselves harbouring a sense of loyalty towards the novel, for fear that it will not be done justice in its pending picturization. While this is not the case with Little Fires Everywhere (2020), an exquisite mini-series adaptation of author Celeste Ng’s story starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, it is doubtful in my mind that an attempt to bring this story to life in an alternative medium could match this novel’s brilliance.

Little Fires Everywhere, is a Hulu mini-series which rigidly follows the narrative of the residents of Shaker Heights, Ohio. There are some considerable discrepancies between the novel and its screen adaptation, for instance, one of the major plot points regarding the youngest Richardson daughter, Izzy. The novel gives an acutely painful description of the ordinary but complex difficulties of navigating adolescence, compounded by the fact that Izzy is so ostracised by her family and community. In the same vein, this feeling is echoed by Pearl, but for the intelligently dealt-with reason of race and money being the driving force in her circumstance. I found the novel did a better job with the execution of conversations on race. While the adaptation made admittedly successful attempts at showcasing the intrusion of racial microaggressions perpetrated by the white residents of the town, the book allowed for further conversation on the topic such as the interior monologues of Mia and Elena wildly contrasting and staggering. The series also shows cracks in the portrayed image of Elena more so than the novel, something that Ng dealt with expertly: even in her own mind, Elena refuses to show signs of weakness or vulnerability. 

As would I recommend for all books brought to the screen: read the novel first. It often tells the story in a better and more detailed way!