I’ve watched countless screen adaptations of novels. Some were, in my opinion, excellent: Harry Potter (bar the first two), Big Little Lies, Brideshead Revisited (the young Jeremy Irons one), Little Women (all of them). Some were less excellent: Nine Perfect Strangers (nope), Harry Potter 1 and 2, The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009 movie), to name a few.
I love it when they’re great and I’m fine when they’re not: a disappointing screen version of a book you loved takes nothing away from the novel. Whereas a great version can add a wonderful new visual and musical dimension onto a story you already feel invested in. An example of this, for me, is the montage in Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby of Jay Gatsby and Daisy set to Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful: a musical segment that makes the story even richer when I read it again.
I can’t remember, however, ever going back and reading a book for the first time after I’ve watched it on screen. I think you need that first read to be imagined freely, without the actors’ faces in your mind, without the sets and the music and the director’s interpretation. Here are some screen adaptations of books I’ve loved coming out on TV or in cinemas soon, just in case you wanted to read the books first!
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Adapted from the novel that launched a thousand book clubs, you’d be hard-pressed to avoid the release of this movie, starring Daisy Edgar-Jones of Normal People fame and with a soundtrack headlined by Taylor Swift. It’s set to be a summer blockbuster, if those even still exist in the age of streaming. I, along with everyone else, loved this book and devoured it in a couple of sittings. Set in the beautiful, wild marshes of North Carolina, it follows the tumultuous life of a young girl called Kya. Do I want to be the Marsh Girl? No. Would I like a little summer cabin in the marshes where I can pootle about in my little boat, collect shells and cook fish on the beach? Yes, yes I do. In the absence of that, this movie might have to take me there instead.
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Set in Dublin, Conversations With Friends is the story of two young university students, Frances and Bobbi, as they become close to a couple in their forties: literary Melissa and her actor husband Nick. Just as with Rooney’s Normal People, the novel is a character exploration of human relationships and internal turmoil, beautifully written. Watch the TV series for moody scenes, Jemima Kirke as Melissa and Melissa’s gorgeously curated Dublin home, which showcases our Deep Teal linen bedding to perfection in episode three (I’d be remiss not to mention it).
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Dolly Alderton’s memoir is funny, engaging and relatable, describing the millennial experience of a twenty-something in London to perfection. The memoir navigates changing friendships, professional ambition, self-discovery and of course, finding love. It has now been turned into a BBC series starring Bel Powley of The Morning Show fame and rising star Emma Appleton. I am going to dive headfirst into this as soon as it comes out, because I just need more, more, more of Dolly and her friends in my life.
The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo is a fictional iconic and reclusive movie star in her eighties who decides to share the story of her life with journalist Monique Grant. Through a series of interviews she narrates her past, including her Hollywood experience and a young and beautiful star in the 50s and 60s as well as her love life and her seven husbands. Said to be loosely based on the lives of Elizabth Taylor and Ava Gardner, her story draws you into the world of old Hollywood glamour, scandal and love. Still in the early stages of production, with no cast announced yet, this will be one to watch.
One Day by David Nicholls
If you haven’t already read the book, first published in 2009, you might have watched the feature film from 2011 starring Anne Hathaway. David Nicholls can do no wrong in my eyes and I have inhaled every story he’s written. One Day tells the story of Emma and Dexter, documenting their lives on the same day every year for 20 years. The book is so good that a movie wasn’t enough and it is now being turned into a TV series coming in 2023.