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May 28th, 2019

Book #31: Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin



Number of pages: 276

I read this book some time ago, and after I saw the film, I wanted to rewatch it, to see just how closely the film stuck to the book's storyline.

I had forgotten quite how long the book went before the most memorable sequence, with Charlie travelling across America with Lean on Pete, the racehorse. Reading the book again, I noticed just how much the film, while still difficult to watch, toned down a lot of elements.

First, it made the attack on Charlie's father that occurs early in the book a lot tamer (in the film, he is shot, while in the book he gets thrown out through a window and cuts himself on a shard of glass.

Also, the general seediness of many of the characters that Charlie meets is toned down in the book, mostly with its portrayal of the obnoxious Del, the horse trainer, who in the book does drugs and sleeps with prostitutes, and (it is implied) is also a peeping Tom.

Reading through this book made me realise that the film did skip several plot elements, or make alterations to other events, so there were sections that I had forgotten about, including a sequence where Charlie ends up being given a lift by a very preachy (and judgemental) Jehovah's witness, and another sequence where he ends up in foster care (he ends up being kicked out of the house after another boy plants marijuana in Charlie's drawer).

Overall, I enjoyed this again on my second reading - very upsetting in places, because of the cruelty inflicted on Charlie by many of the book's minor characters, but very well told. I noticed also that Charlie uses very short sentences as he narrates it, occasionally using bad grammar (he talks often about how a character "shined" a torch, for example, which is presumably to reflect the fact that he is badly educated. I would recommend this book, and the film.

Next book: Dead Simple (Peter James)

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