Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
August 20, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Henry James and Edith Wharton go Hollywood this fall

Not that this summer has made me lose faith in moviemaking or anything (all right, maybe a little), but now seems like a good time to go back and hit the books — especially the wonderful ones that are now being made into movies. Even if the filmmakers don’t do the books justice — and I’m hoping they will — you’ll realize what inspired them.

The Golden Bowl Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, the pair behind such eye candy as ”The Remains of the Day” and ”A Room With a View,” have taken on Henry James’ novel, casting Uma Thurman, Nick Nolte, and Jeremy Northam in the lead roles. While James could have used a little editing with this slightly circuitous story, the plot is delicious: father and daughter ex-pats living on the Continent and running afoul of devious Europeans. This Miramax movie comes out in November, which gives you plenty of time to take on the book — especially if you skip to the good parts.

House of Mirth Edith Wharton’s story about a young American woman whose social climbing has disastrous consequences is a gem, and its terseness makes it the ideal palette cleanser after ”The Golden Bowl”’s wordiness. While Terence Davies’ movie version, starring Gillian Anderson, has received nice reviews in Europe, the book itself is perfection. (A U.S. release date is still up in the air)

All the Pretty Horses Cormac McCarthy’s novel is so beautifully written that even if you can’t stand the Western genre, you’ll be swayed. In the film version, which is being released by Miramax and Sony this fall, Billy Bob Thornton directs Matt Damon as a Texas cowboy who drifts down to Mexico in the 1930s.

Invisible Circus Jennifer Egan’s novel about a girl coping with her sister’s suicide and an unexpected love affair is a perfect rainy weekend read — specially since it transports the reader to Paris. Cameron Diaz and Blythe Danner are starring in the movie, which is scheduled for release in January.

Chocolat Also set in France, Joanne Harris’ novel is a magical story about a mother and daughter who open a chocolate store in a small village. Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp star for director Lasse Halström, who did such a beautiful job filming John Irving’s ”The Cider House Rules” that I have the highest hopes for the movie, which will come out in late December.

As Hollywood brings more books to the screen, let’s hope they keep picking good ones. Suggestions, anyone?

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