Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant

I recently saw the new HBO Max show The Flight Attendant, with Kaley Cuoco in the lead role, and really loved it ... so of course I had to read the book that the show is based on, of the same name, by Chris Bohjalian. 

Book synopsis:
The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show
Now a limited series on HBO Max! A powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man—and no idea what happened.

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police—she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet,
The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

First off: I would give the book 3.5/5 stars, and the TV show 4.5/5. Maybe it's because I saw the show before I read the book ... but I found the show to be more dramatic and compelling. However, that's not to say I didn't like the book, because I did—but the showrunners definitely made a few changes.

The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian: Book vs. HBO Max TV show
Changes from the book to the TV show, non-spoiler edition:
  • Book Cassie is around 40, I believe, and I think TV Cassie was supposed to be in her early 30's (Kaley Cuoco is 35 IRL though)
  • In the book, the murder at the beginning takes place in Dubai, and in the show, it's Bangkok—I just visited Bangkok in 2018, so I found that more compelling. 
  • Elena/Miranda ends up NOT being Cassie's "friend," in the book edition
  • In the book, Cassie didn't have a lawyer, so she ends up with Ani; in the show, Ani is a friend of Cassie's who just happens to be a lawyer (played excellently by Zosia Mamet, from Girls
  • Both Book and TV show Cassie grew up in Kentucky; however, Book Cassie has a sister, who has a husband and children, and TV Cassie has a gay brother, who also has a husband and children. 

Changes from the book to TV show, SPOILER EDITION ... STOP READING NOW if you don't want spoilers:
  • TV show Cassie does more crazy stuff—she goes to Alex Sokolov's funeral, for example, then has to escape. Book Cassie briefly contemplates going to his funeral, but does not. 
  • Elena/Miranda ends up trying to kill Cassie, upon orders from her superiors, in the book, but instead gets killed by the "real" bad guy, Buckley, in Cassie's hotel room in Rome. In the TV show, Miranda and Cassie worked together to apprehend Buckley, once they figured out he was the true bad guy.
  • Cassie's brother-in-law gets investigated because he's an agent, and they think Cassie and him might have been working together to kill or somehow maim Sokolov. 
  • The end of the book: Cassie now works as some sort of agent, but still does flight attendant stuff too (for the agency), and we learn that she has a daughter, Masha, which was the result of her and Alex Sokolov's 1-night stand ... I thought this was not really necessary, although it explains why her character has now quit drinking. 

Have you read The Flight Attendant book, and/or seen the TV show? If so, what did you think of it?

And you can find the book version here for purchase, on Amazon.

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