Saturday, October 7, 2017

Books I'd love to see on Screen

I've been out in the villages today so have missed National bookshop day, but as I'm no stranger to the inside of a bookshop I don't feel to badly about it, and there's always tomorrow. Meanwhile a comment from Susanna about Arnold Bennett's 'The Grand Babylon Hotel' got me thinking about that perennial question; what books would you most like to see adapted for television?

I believe there's yet another Jane Austen adaptation on its way, which I'll almost certainly watch, and probably enjoy. And I might have read about a Brontë something or other which I would also watch but with a little less enthusiasm (and also I might have imagined reading about this). I'd also add Agatha Christie to the over adapted list.

Meanwhile, Susanna is right, 'The Grand Babylon Hotel' would make excellent T.V. It's a big, colourful, romp with plenty of action, and scope for gorgeous costumes. It also breaks conveniently into 2 parts, and I'd happily watch it.

I'd also quite like to see Georgette Heyer on the television, possibly something late like 'Cousin Kate' (though its depiction of mental health issues might be problematic). The late books are generally rather less loved than the early ones, so much less danger of howling in outrage at whatever nonsense is on the screen (the really awful David Walliams take on Tommy and Tuppance comes to mind). 'Cousin Kate' (thinking about re reading it for the 1968 book club) has an oppressive, somewhat gothic atmosphere, the orphaned Kate is struggling to find a way to keep herself when she's taken in by her half aunt. There's something wrong in the house but she's not clear what it is, but when a mutilated rabbit turns up we can all guess what's coming next. Done properly it could be good.

Given the success of Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Cranford' books it's a safe bet there would be an audience for Margaret Oliphant's Carlingford Chronicles too. I love these books, not least because of the way she responds to Trollope's Barchester Chronicles in them (though that's by no means all she's doing). They absolutely deserve to be better known, and have some tremendous characters in them.

I'd really like to see some of Barbara Pym's excellent women given some screen space too. They deserve the attention, and done well would be wonderful to watch.

Meike Ziervogel's 'The Photographer', or Marie Sizun's 'Her Father's Daughter' (published by Meike's Peirene Press) would also be great. They both take a good look at fathers returning from the Second World War. 'The Photographer' is a loosely biographical account of a family from East Germany being drawn into the war, partly through an act of betrayal, and finally finding each other again in the refugee camps of the west. 'Her Father's Daughter' is French, the betrayal is of a different nature, and how families fit together again after long periods of separation is the major theme. Both books are brilliant, both offer a different view of the impact the war had on society to the one I'm used to seeing. Both would make for tense and gripping on screen drama.


17 comments:

  1. Yes - surely a new generation of Brit character actors to make their reputations on Barbara Pym!

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    1. I Think she's the perfect blend of sweet and sour!

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  2. I totally agree about Pym. I would also like to see more children’s literature adapted for television. I remember back in the 1980s wonderful adaptations of Jenny Nimmo’s ‘Snow Spider’ and ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ by Lucy Boston both of which introduced the children I was teaching to authors they might otherwise have found rather daunting.

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    1. I don't know either of those, but have fond memories of other children's classics seen on to (not Black Beauty, which was heartbreaking). Some more would be great.

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  3. I'd like to see some Eric Ambler - The Mask of Dimitrios perhaps, and definitely more Le Carre. Of older classics - how about Return of the Native or other Hardy?

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    1. Eric Ambler for sure. Imagine that more Le Carre might be forthcoming after the success of recent adaptations, I certainly hope so! I've never really read Hardy, so an introduction to him would be great, and whilst I think about it something else by Wilkie Collins, he wrote more than 2 books after all.

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  4. Oh dear, the list might go on for ever! Barbara Pym of course (so long as they avoided any twee or patronising tone) and what about Elizabeth Jenkins' subtle insight into marriage and attraction, The Tortoise and the Hare?

    I believe there was a play once, but I would love a film of Margaret Kennedy's The Constant Nymph, one of those unforgettable rite of passage novels read when I was the heroine's age - opportunities for beautiful film sets here too!

    Then for everyone who's thought about reading the Poldark novels following the success of the television series, I'd recommend another Winston Graham novel, Cordelia, which is not part of the Poldark series. As the Scotsman says on the blurb of my paperback copy the story 'has all the excellent Victorian ingredients - guilty love, surrender, pathos and comedy' while the Times Literary Supplement suggests its screen potential 'the family prayers, the flare of the gas, the solemn elaborate meals ... this is a real world.'

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    1. The Tortoise and the Hare would be excellent - I'd love to see those relationships explored by a decent cast. I've not read Winston Graham, but donenjoy Poldark, it's such good Sunday evening stuff and more sounds like a good thing. I'm ashamed to admit that I have a whole stack of Kennedy's books, but haven't read any of them.

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  5. Yes to Barbara Pym, definitely, and Edith Wharton too.

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    1. She's another writer I need to read more of. I have a stack of her books in the Virago edition which are currently gathering dust.

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  6. the Carlingford novels are on Amazon's Kindle for 99p!

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    1. What a bargain! If you like Trollope, you'll love them. Why Miss Marjoriebanks isn't as well known as Emma is a mystery!

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  7. Recently went to a production of Georgette Heyer's Sylvester in a small Chicago theater and it was delightful. It was also very creative as they had a small stage and small but very talented cast. This little theater company specializes in adaptations of literature. I think some of Heyer's novels would make wonderful film or tv adaptations

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    1. That sounds like fun. I love Sylvester, so it might not be my favourite to watch, but I'd love to see some of the others.

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  8. Georgette Heyer on television would be wonderful - so long as the irresistible humour in the novels isn't spoilt by being overdone or exaggerated. Which novel would you choose to be filmed first? I think I'd go for Faro's Daughter because of the hilarious scene in Vauxhall Gardens, or The Reluctant Widow for its witty heroine and exciting plot. But then there's The Grand Sophy, with the odious Miss Wraxton ...

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    1. Faro's Daughter, and The Reluctant Widow for sure, maybe Cotillion. Basically any of the later ones. The danger would be that she got camped up to the nines (Poldark seems to get it broadly right though, so it's clearly possible).

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  9. Ooh, thank you for this blog post! Another vote for Barbara Pym here. I also think Dorothy Whipple would be good (I know there are film adaptations but nothing recent).
    I loved the Dorothy L Sayers TV series with Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter, but it does look a bit dated now, and Gaudy Night would be a great opportunity for casting women of a certain age as the dons. Actually I think her Montague Egg short stories would be fun in that daytime slot where the BBC put Father Brown.
    There are so many suggestions here,it's disappointing we keep getting Austen/Brontë/Dickens on rotation (and the most well-known ones at that).

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