Book to Movie: The Ruby in the Smoke

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were trying to think of something to do on a Friday night. I mentioned that I'd checked out a movie from the library and he just looked at me and said, "It's one of your BBC book-to-film movies, isn't it?" Um... yes? Do I even watch anything else anymore?

Anyway, I was very excited to notice a mention of The Ruby in the Smoke on a blog that I forgotten now (I'm sorry that I forgot you, by the way, because I am very grateful that I came across your post). His Dark Materials, another trilogy by Phillip Pullman, is collectively my second favorite book, and I read the Sally Lockhart trilogy by Phillip Pullman soon afterward and loved it almost as much. (There is also a companion book which is even better -- The Tin Princess). I read these books over and over again, at least three times, but I hadn't thought of them in years.

Because it had been so long since these books had even crossed my mind, the opening scenes of The Ruby in the Smoke were pure magic for me. They brought me back ten years into one of my favorite books. When Jim came on the screen, I just about died -- he is one of my biggest literary crushes of all time, and seeing him speaking and moving on the screen instead of just in my mind was unbelievable, especially when he was in a scene with Adelaide, the little girl he promises to protect.

When I get outside of my personal nostalgic bias towards this story, the movie itself was only mediocre. It is a spare 90 minutes long, and while this was good for the pacing and the action, it did nothing for the character development. So much happens in this story that all the attention is given to the action. And while the story is a nice, exciting mystery, complete with opium, dazzling rubies, not one but TWO handsome men and a murderous middle-aged crone with no teeth who buries little girls in her yard, the real allure for me was always the characters and how much I loved them. I enjoyed the hour and a half I spent watching the movie, but if I hadn't already been in love with and invested in the characters and story, I think it would have been a weak effort. So overall, if you already love this story, you'll have fun with the movie. If not, read the book, and then we'll talk.


  1. Oooo, there's a movie? I haven't read these books for ages but I loved them when I did. Now i'll have to check out the movie!

  2. I have to read this book as i love His Dark Materials. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  3. I loved these Phillip Pullman books when I was in middle school and high school. I devoured all of them, I think before I read His Dark Materials, but haven't thought about them in a long time.

  4. Jenny - It isn't a great movie on its own but since you liked the books you will probably like the movie too!

    Pepca - I hope you love them! They were some of my favorites when I was younger!!

    Kim - I know, i had totally forgotten about them. They were everything I loved as a young reader - romance, adventure, etc. :)

  5. Oh, wow! I am months late here, but I'm so glad I stumbled over this post - I had no idea BBC had made a film of The Ruby in the Smoke. It's been years since I've read the Sally Lockhart books, but I fell so in love with them in high school. I'll have to see if I can get this movie and sate my sudden desire to reread the books, for a few months at least.

    -- Ellen

    1. I know! I was so excited when I heard that it was a movie. It definitely has some cheese factor going on, but it is very entertaining.


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