Review: How does the newly released film ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ compare to the bestselling novel?

Daisy Edgar Jones stars in "Where the crawdads sing"
Photo courtesy of Michele K. Short

Book lovers understand the apprehensive excitement of a bestselling novel getting a film adaptation. As an avid reader and a big “Where the Crawdads Sing” novel fan, let’s just say I had high expectations for this film.

The novel “Where The Crawdads Sing,” written by Delia Owens, presents a captivating fictional mystery set in Barkley Cove, North Carolina, in the mid 1900s.

The story follows main character Kya Clark as she grows up in the uninhabited marsh lands of her childhood home on the North Carolina coast. The story illustrates Kya’s early independence as she is slowly abandoned by her family members and rejected from the townspeople of Barkley Cove. 

As a film based upon a highly praised novel, there were many details within the novel that I expected to be included in the film.

As Kya grew up and spent her life surviving in the marshlands, she developed a keen interest in nature and the biology of the life around her. I was happy to see the themes of nature and biology in the book be relayed in the film, as I think these themes give the writing the delicate language that made the prose of the novel so unique.

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

I was giddy with content when this lovely quote from the novel made its way into the film. Overall the unique voice of Kya is represented well in the film, including some of her knowledgeable life lessons that she illustrates through the lens of nature.

Daisy Edgar Jones stars in "Where the crawdads sing"
[Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Kya Clark in the film adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sing.]
Photo courtesy of Michele K. Short

“If anyone understood loneliness the moon would. Drifting back to the predictable cycles of tadpoles and the ballet of fireflies, Kya burrowed deeper into the wilderness. Nature seemed the only stone that would not slip midstream.”

Kya applies the laws of nature and biology to her own life, which is illustrated in this quote from the novel and her narration throughout the film. 

Kya takes many matters of her life in her own hands and presents herself as a strong female lead with a good sense of intelligence, even before she learned how to read. 

Because the story is set in the mid 1900s, both the novel and the film do a great job of illustrating hierarchies within the townspeople, and does not shy from allowing Kya to feel the constraints and repercussions of being a woman in this era.

It is when Kya is independent and finally finding happiness and success on her own path that she is put on trial for murder.

The story behind Kya’s suspicion in the trial is revealed to the audience through her pitiful experiences in love.

The murder trial adds a sense of thrill and suspense to Kya’s otherwise quaint life with only heartbreaking experiences in companionship and love.

The film remains consistent in presenting the issues Kya faces as a woman who suspects her experiences will not be believed by the jury. In fact, Kya refuses to even take the stand.

The life of Kya growing up in the marshlands was illustrated in a more glamorized and clean-cut manner compared to the original novel’s depiction.

But in hindsight, Hollywood tends to put a glamorized mask over many stories, and I was more impressed with the consistency of themes pulled from the novel than disappointed in the glamorized view of her rustic lifestyle.

Although Kya’s life on the marsh could have been more realistic, the overall setting of the story remained deeply consistent in the film.

I was also delighted to hear the line in the novel that connects the story to its beloved title, which made its way to the story on the big screen. The title of the novel perfectly encompasses Kya’s independence and connections to the nature she grew up in.

The plot twist is hidden throughout the coming-of-age narrative presented in the storyline and surprisingly further represents the themes of nature and biology.

The only way to find out how the trial and the story ends is to read or watch! I highly recommend experiencing this mystery both on paper and in theaters.

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