1 June 2021 Susannah

Adaptations for TV

Sandition, 2019

Do you love to watch a good adaptation of a novel on TV? I have recently been indulging myself with some nice viewing, so can recommend a few programmes.

Netflix has the delightful Ladies in Black based on Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel The Women in Black. I loved The Queen’s Gambit, though have not read the 1993 novel by Walter Tevis which inspired it. Nor have I read the novel The Dig by John Preston (2007) but I loved the movie. Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy is a visual treat with all those amazing scenes in India and, as far as I can remember, the script is faithful to the book.

Britbox has All Creatures Great and Small, based on James Herriot’s bestselling series of books – both the beloved 1978 TV series, and also the 2020 version. I enjoyed the new version, but it somehow lacked the sheer magic of the earlier series. At least I could still admire glorious Yorkshire Dales scenery at a time when I still can’t travel to see it in person.

And Jane Austen continues to attract film directors. Her unfinished novel Sanditon was filmed but it frustratingly left viewers high and dry at the end, because a second series was planned. Then those in charge canned the planned second series, but the resulting protests were so loud that they have now changed their minds. Series 2 and Series 3 are in the pipeline, though without Theo James in the lead role, so goodness know what that will do to the ending Jane Austen planned for her novel. And there will be a new film of Persuasion at the movies, with Sarah Snook as Anne Eliot. Netflix is planning a modern re-telling of Persuasion too, with Dakota Johnson as the heroine.

I have just finished reading The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing. Some months ago, I recommended her book To the River about the Ouse River in Sussex, in which she is walking in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf. I love Laing’s writing style – it is erudite and thought-provoking – and The Trip to Echo Spring was no exception.

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Featured image credit- Sandition, 2019 Masterpiece Theatre production, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8685324/

Comments (18)

  1. Malvina Yock

    I’m trying to screw up my courage to watch the series ‘The Underground Railroad’, from Colson Whitehead’s brilliant book. I imagine it won’t be for the fainthearted. Also ‘The Alienist’, based on Caleb Carr’s compelling book. Again, not for the fainthearted! I did enjoy the more lighthearted ‘Bridgerton’, from Julia Quinn’s fun series of books. Another interesting series was ‘Dickensian’, based on a mish-mash of Dickens’ books. If you hadn’t read the books it might be a bit puzzling, but entertaining none-the-less.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I am also keen to see The Underground Railroad.
      Many thanks for the other suggestions – I have seen Bridgerton – what a romp.

  2. Jane Todd

    Have you tried the Netflix series Call my Agent? It’s rare to find something that makes me look forward to TV watching in the evening but this certainly did. You can also brush up on your colloquial French (subtitled).

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for the recommendation. Another friend has also suggested I watch that series, so it will be next on my list.

  3. Miland

    Here’s two examples, neither of them part of the “canon”, and completely different: the film and books versions of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Risen.
    The first is of a Pakistani graduate in the USA who gets treated roughly after 9/11 that causes him to look at the West more critically. The film seems to make explicit things that are only hinted at in the book. Risen, about a Roman officer investigating rumours that the body od a recently crucified convicted criminal (Jesus) is better in the film version – the book is filled with quotations from the gospels that make it read more like an evangelical tract (though evangelicals may like it, of course).
    I thought the recent film adaptations of some of C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” stories weree quite good.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Many thanks for the recommendations, Miland. They both sound interesting.

  4. Carolyn Cossgrove

    I love the TV adaptation of Sanditon, but I never really felt that Theo James’ Sidney Parker was “The One” for Charlotte. Although handsome and mysterious, there was nothing that made him worthy of being an Austen hero. I mean, the Madam of the brothel in London knew him by name! Hardly Austen lead man material. Jane almost always has a second option for her heroine, one who is less appropriate eg. Willoughby, Wickham, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Henry Crawford etc…I personally was rooting for Mr. Stringer, the builder, a much worthier fellow (with a lovely smile). Who knows, for series two they may introduce a new bloke…

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I think they will have to find a new guy, as evidently the actor playing Mr Stringer is not available for he next series either. I agree with your comments about Theo James – good point about the brothel!

      • Carolyn Cossgrove

        Well that bit of information has just ruined my day, I had high hopes for Mr. Stringer 🙁

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Yes, he was the nicest character, but looks like he has gone. A real shame!

  5. I watched ‘Sanditon’ recently, courtesy of ABC iView, and rather disappointed with the final episode.

    Thank goodness there will be Season 2 and 3.

    However, I haven’t read the book to see what Jane Austen had written.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Well, it is certainly not Jane Austen. I think the first ten minutes had some connection with ehr book and after that, it was completely different. Goodness knows what it will be like without Theo James as the hero?

  6. Maria

    Susannah, you’ve seen and read far more than me so it’s not easy to come up with recommendations for things to watch. Like you, I loved The Dig and enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit. My daughter and I enjoyed Halston on Netflix recently. It’s by no means perfect but Ewan McGregor in the title role is terrific. I was an avid reader of American fashion magazines in my younger days (Seventeen, Vogue etc.) and I admired the beautiful tailoring of designers like Halston, Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene. If you have an interest in fashion, the 80s or want a peek at the high (and low) life of the Studio 54 era, you might enjoy it. For something quite different, I can recommend Line of Duty (UK) and The Bridge (Swedish/Danish). Both have been around for a while and are a great escape into crime, done a bit differently.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Many thanks for the recommendations. I loved The Bridge and have Line of Duty on my to-watch list, but Halston sounds interesting so will give that a try.

      • Andrew Newman

        Hi Susannah,
        I really enjoyed both Ladies in Black and The Dig. My all-time favourite though is Jewel in the Crown, the TV series adapted from Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet. Love in a Cold Climate is another favourite, as is the original 1960’s TV series of John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga.
        Andrew Newman

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Yes, I also really loved The Jewel in the Crown, and read all the books after watching the series. And The Forsyte Saga is another fabulous classic production. Love in a Cold Climate wiht Judi Dench is my favourite – the more recent version was not as good.

  7. Sheelagh

    In preparation for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I have listen to Miriam Margolyes reading it snd I highly recommend her rendition of the book !

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