An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby

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An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Book to accompany the film. An interesting and accessible commentary on writing the screen play and the difficulties of putting a dream onto the big screen. Enjoyable and informative, I can see this book being pounced on by schools and colleges running film courses.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 216 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141044743

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Adroit marketing? Well, yes. An Education has been published, of course, to coincide with the film's general release in the UK. Hardly surprising since our national appetite for nosiness seems insatiable and cosy background details prop up every telly series and film these days. As well as the screenplay, Nick Hornby has provided an introduction and diary of the film's successful premiere at the Sundance Festival in Utah. Beyond trivia, I think this fascinating little book presents an excellent 'how to' guide for wannabes from one of Britain's most respected screen and novel writers.

Maybe you already know Lynn Barber's book of the same name, which started life as an essay in Granta magazine. Nick Hornby picked up the theme of a young girl poised in a space and time: London suburbia, just before the Sixties started swinging. He ran with an original screenplay developed from the memoir.

It took five years. Making a film, even for well-established figures like Nick Hornby, is no done deal. According to him, 90% of optioned novels are never made; the process of financing a film so fraught with uncertainty that completion is success, irrespective of subsequent distribution or box office performance. He and his wife, the independent film producer, Amanda Posey, hawked the concept round passionately but unsuccessfully for a couple of years. Eventually BBC Films provided some pump-priming and the film production was financed by Endgame Entertainment. Writing the script was clearly the easy part of the project for Nick Hornby. His candid account of the difficulties the team surmounted to reach first base is an object lesson in determination.

As Nick Hornby informs us in his introduction, a memoir can only reflect on immature mistakes from the mature person's viewpoint. The film seeks to present characters in the here and now, hence this is a story of Jenny's life-changing affair with David, not Lynn Barber's retrospective story. At the nub of her conflict is Jenny's feeling that what is being offered – a chance of a place at Oxford University – may not lead to a life that's all it's cracked up to be. So when urbane David cruises along in his Bristol car, Jenny is more than ready to sample the lifestyle that's on offer from David's 'University of Life'. It's particularly interesting to consider how the characters' authenticity is provided by subtle use of the cultural context, for instance references to Juliet Greco rather than Elvis Presley.

Looking for the first time at a screenplay, I was struck by its minimality. In all, a 100 minute film runs to about 150 pages of mostly white space. The spoken words are sparse; the writer's directions give deft brush strokes about other shots and characters' personalities. Brief gestures and facial expressions provide much of the interest (of course they do, I'd just never thought about it before!) that would take many paragraphs to develop in a novel.

The screenplay is smart and funny and could be read in two or three English lessons. With the extra material on board, it provides a useful introduction to growing a film project. As always, Nick Hornby writes entertainingly, such as his discussion of editorial decisions on the ending, which I think would be accessible enough to engage a young audience. There's also much to mull over in terms of comparing early-Sixties teenage life with today's sophisticated expectations and values.

Two other recent publications which capture the same pre-Swinging Sixties period are Jacqueline Walker's beautiful memoir of her childhood in Jamaica and London, Pilgrim State and William Bedford's None of the Cadillacs was Pink, both worth a look.

After enjoying this book so much, I'm keen to compare it with Lynn Barber's [[An Education … and since I'm planning on seeing the film next Wednesday, I guess the marketing worked just fine.

The Bookbag would like to thank the publishers for sending this book.

Buy An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby at

Buy An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Education: The Screenplay by Nick Hornby at


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