Five books to read before they're adapted for screen
Sienna Miller, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Tom Hiddleston all star in literary adaptations coming soon.
I feel as though I read about a new book being adapted for screen every single day. There are so many upcoming that this email started out as a list of twelve - and that didn’t include the ones I’ve already mentioned in Well Read before (Wahala, Conversations with Friends, and Black Cake being among them).
I promised to never overload you with too many recommendations, however, so I’ve gone through a painstaking process of whittling it down to just five - meaning I’ll have to come back to this topic again.
I have a lot of thoughts about book-to-screen adaptations, mainly around how they’re almost never as good, except when they’re excellent. (The One Day movie has just 34% on Rotten Tomatoes for a reason. The TV adaption of Little Fires Everywhere, on the other hand, was brilliant and - *whisper it* - I think I even enjoyed it more than the novel.)
Regardless, I’m a firm believer in reading the book before you see it on screen - and if you are too, here are five to add to your to-read list.
Five brilliant novels that are being adapted for screen
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
I loved this thriller when it was published in 2018: its page-turning plot is filled with secrets, lies, twists and turns, which, incidentally, are also all great ingredients for a binge-worthy Netflix series.
Sienna Miller will play Sophie, whose life begins to unravel when her husband James (Rupert Friend), a government minister, is accused of a sexual assault. She’s sure he’s innocent, but Kate (Michelle Dockery), the barrister prosecuting his case, is determined to prove he’s guilty. I hope this adaptation is as excellent as the trailer makes it look. On Netflix 15 April.
Read it if you like: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty or House of Cards Michael Dobbs.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The upcoming TV series, based on the beguiling novel by Sarah Perry, stars Claire Danes as the newly widowed Cora who, having escaped an abusive marriage, moves from Victorian London to a small village in Essex in the hope of fresh air and a fresh start.
Here, she meets Will, a vicar played by Tom Hiddleston, and discovers that the village is beset by superstition about a mythical serpent. As a keen naturalist, Cora goes in search of the animal which is said to have claimed many lives. The tale of friendship, love and passion that ensues is rich and gothic and brilliant. Coming to Apple TV+ late spring.
Read it if you like: books by Stacey Halls, Sarah Waters, or Daphne du Maurier.
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
I love all of Kit de Waal’s books, but this novel, which was her debut, is really something special. It’s set in the 1980s and told from the perspective of nine-year-old Leon, who is taken into foster care and separated from his baby brother Jake.
The story follows Leon’s quest to bring his family back together, and is a poignant and hopeful exploration of belonging, race, and identity - which is being made into a one-off, 90-minute drama for the BBC. Coming soon to BBC One.
Read it if you like: Careless by Kirsty Capes or 26A by Diana Evans.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I used to be rather obsessed with this book so I was kind of crushed when it was turned into a very average film in 2009, starring Rachel McAdams. I hope this doesn’t happen for a second time around when the new TV adaptation arrives this spring.
This time, Rose Leslie will play Clare, who falls in love with Henry (Theo James) - a man with a genetic disorder which causes him to time travel, most often during unpredictable and inopportune moments. Apparently the author Audrey wrote the book as a metaphor for her own frustrations with love and relationships at the time. Coming this spring to Sky Atlantic and NOW.
Read it if you like: The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley or the film About Time.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I know very, very few people who haven’t read this novel, which became the ‘it’ book of 2018 when it was published. When I finally picked it up two years later, after almost everyone I knew had told me to read it, I adored it so much that I don’t think I spoke to anyone for the few days I was ensconced in the story.
It follows Kya, who grows up on the marsh land in North Carolina and lives a relatively peaceful life - until she becomes a suspect for murder. The upcoming film version stars Daisy Edgar-Jones in the lead role and has been reworked by Reese Witherspoon’s production company - and yet I’m bordering on terrified to watch it, because really, how on earth is it going to live up to one of the best books I’ve ever read?! In cinemas 22 July.
Read it if you like: captivating books which blend genres - in this case, between coming-of-age and murder mystery. (For once, I’m struggling to draw comparisons because it’s one of the most original novels I’ve ever read!)