'Olive Kitteridge' on HBO vs. The Novel

Adaptation is such a tricky thing. How do you create something that is both yours and someone else's? One new adaptation coming to HBO this Sunday is Olive Kitteridge, based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout and adapted for the screen by Jane Anderson. If you complain about the lack of lady writers on your television screen, throw some support in the direction of this mini-series! Olive Kitteridge is about a woman who affects lives, whether she knows it or not, in a small, quiet, sleepy town in Maine. She's important but she's not exactly a nice person. She's sardonic and not afraid to speak her mind, which for a female role is refreshing to see. We live in a world of Walter Whites and Don Drapers and Dexter Morgans on critically acclaimed television... while this may not be the same criminal extreme, it's nice to see a lady be rude yet sympathetic. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2009. So how exactly will the Olive Kitteridge mini-series change from the book? Some changes will be practical, and others artistic.

The series has a fantastic cast. Olive will be played by Frances McDormand. Joining her are Bill Murray, Richard Jenkins, Zoe Kazan, Martha Wainwright and The Newsroom's John Gallagher Jr. Will they do justice to their literary counterparts? We'll have to watch to find out! Here's what I can tell is different so far.


The novel is broken up into thirteen short stories rather than chapters. The HBO series, on the other hand, will be broken into four parts. This first two, which debut this Sunday, Nov. 2, are called "Pharmacy" and "Incoming Tide" respectfully, according to the official press release. These are the titles of the first two short stories in the novel as well. The third and four part, titled "A Different Road" and "Security," will air the following Monday night, and are also short stories/chapters in the novel.

This correlation makes me wonder if HBO is looking at the possibility of a second season that will piece together more parts of the novel. I know it's a mini-series and those shouldn't have multiple seasons at all, but shows like True Detective, American Horror Story, and Sherlock are changing that definition (while confusing the snot out of me during awards shows).

From what I can tell of Frances McDormand's greying hair in the promotional images, the series will be taking place in a linear fashion, time-wise. The novel jumps around a bit. Unless they employ flashbacks, the twenty-five years in which the novel takes place will appear as is.

Point of View

Each story in the novel is told through a different character's point of view. The only thread that ties them all together? Olive Kitteridge, of course. It seems like that structure would be different to replicate on film. It's the opposite problem that The Hunger Games films had, and solved pretty well I think. The books are told from Katniss' narrow POV, and the films expand all over Panem.

The chapters that have been selected all focus heavily on the Kitteridge family. From what we've seen in terms of trailers, Olive features more heavily in the story than she does in the novel. Will some periphery characters be left out to serve this purpose? While some familiar faces, like Angie O'Meara, will have their story told, there is a character named Rebecca Brown, who has her own chapter and is not listed on IMDb at all. Unless, as I mentioned above, there is a second season in store, it looks like some characters were eliminated to narrow the point of view.

Images: Jojo Whilden/HBO; Giphy(2)