The best book to TV adaptations of 2020

Posted by
Helen Bownass
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From a gender flipped version of High Fidelity to a coulour-blind period drama by Shonda Rimes here’s our pick of the book adaptations to get excited about.      

Think of some of the biggest and best dramas of the last decade. What’s going through your mind? Game of Thrones? Handmaid’s Tale? Big Little Lies? One thing they all have in common is that they all started life as books, before being made into award winning TV series’

And in 2020 we’ll see another library full of novels adapted for the small screen, from a Booker prize winning mystery to a contemporary love story .

 TV is a particularly powerful medium for adaptations. Instead of squeezing hundreds of pages into a two hour film, TV leaves space to breathe. Viewers can climb deeper into characters’ worlds and book chapters lend themselves well to episodes. Adaptations are also a win for book publishers as a TV series can give a huge boost to book sales. In short: we’re all winners.

So whether you want to be transported to another land, a different dimension or to remember what it’s like to be a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, there’s an adaptation for everyone coming up. Here is our pick of the most exciting… 

  • A Suitable Boy

    A Suitable Boy: Tanya Maniktala as Lata

    Who’s in it? Newcomer Tanya Maniktala and Bollywood star Ishaan Khatter.

    What’s it about? Filmed entirely in India by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), a first for the BBC, this is the first adaptation of Vikram Seth’s much lauded classic novel.

    The epic family saga is set in 1951 just as India has been given independence and follows Lata who is determined not to marry the ‘suitable boy’ her mother wants for her.

    When’s it on? A Suitable Boy is on BBC One every Sunday at 9pm. 

  • High Fidelity

    High Fidelity on Starzplay
    High Fidelity on Starzplay

    Who’s in it? Zoë Kravitz, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and David H. Holmes.

    What’s it about? Zoë Kravitz takes the lead in this gender reversed reboot of Nick Hornby’s classic 1995 novel. She plays Rob, a record shop owner in New York, who revisits her top five failed relationships after she learns that the man who broke her heart has moved back to the city.

    Unfortunately it has just been confirmed that the series will not be renewed, of which Kravitz said: “It’s cool. Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait.” Watch it while you can.  

    When’s it on? High Fidelity is on Starzplay on 10 September.

  • Us

    Us: Saskia Reeves as Connie and Tom Hollander as Douglas

    Who’s in it? Tom Hollander, Saskia Reeves, Sofie Gråbøl.

    What’s it about? Douglas thought he was happily married, until his wife of 25 years tells him she doesn’t think she wants to be with him anymore. 

    Before they part ways they agree to go on a big family tour round Europe. David Nicholls has adapted his hugely popular and tender novel into this four part series.

    When’s it on? Us will be on BBC One this Autumn. 

  • The Undoing

    The Undoing
    Nicole Kidman as Grace in The Undoing.

    Who’s in it? Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Douglas Sutherland

    What’s it about? Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz this thriller sees therapist Grace Fraser (Kidman) about to publish a book about women who lie to themselves about their partners. 

    But after a violent death and the disappearance of her husband, Graces’s seemingly perfect life goes into freefall.

    When’s it on? The Undoing is on Sky Atlantic on 26 October. 

  • Bridgerton

    Bridgerton: Producer Shonda Rhimes

    Who’s in it? Julie Andrews, Nicola Coughlan, Phoebe Dynevor.

    What’s it about? Two words: Shonda Rimes. The legendary showrunner behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder is applying her magic touch to period dramas. 

    The series is a colour-blind adaptation of the romance dramas by Julia Quinn. They focus on the love lives of the eight wealthy Bridgerton children in England in the 1800s.

    When’s it on? Bridgerton finished filming in March and will be on Netflix later this year. 

  • His Dark Materials

    Who’s in it? Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Scott, Amir Wilson. 

    What’s it about? The adaptation of book two in Philip Pullman’s beloved trilogy - The Subtle Knife - promises to be even darker. It sees Lyra (Keen) continue her investigation into Dust and search for her father, alongisde new companion Will Parry. 

    There is also a special reunion to look forward to. Fleabag star Andrew Scott joins the cast, after cameos in series one, as Colonel John Parry. And his personal daemon (a physical representation of the soul, often in the form of an animal) will be voiced by the one and only Phoebe Waller-Bridge

    When’s it on? His Dark Materials will be on BBC One later this year. 

  • The Singapore Grip

    The Singapore Grip: Jane Horrocks as Sylvia Blackett
    The Singapore Grip: Jane Horrocks as Sylvia Blackett

    Who’s in it? Jane Horrocks, Luke Treadway, Elizabeth Tan, Charles Dance and David Morrissey.  

    What’s it about? JG Farrell’s satirical novel gets the TV treatment with this ITV adaptation. Set in Singapore in the Second World War, it centres on a British family with a successful trading company. 

    The group navigates business, love and bad health, against the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of Singapore.

    When’s it on? The Singapore Grip will be on ITV this Autumn. 

  • Normal People

    Normal People: Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne
    Normal People: Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne

    Who’s in it? Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal and Sarah Greene

    What’s it about? Sally Rooney’s now cult 2018 novel Normal People centres on two students – Marianne and Connell - who inhabit two distinct worlds in their home town in Sligo as they come together and fall apart over five years. Heartbreakingly perfect. 

    When’s it on? All episodes of Normal People are on BBC iPlayer.

  • Little Fires Everywhere

    Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon Prime
    Kerry Washington in Little Fires Everywhere.

    Who’s in it? Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and Joshua Jackson.

    What’s it about? Like Celeste Ng’s 2017 book this explosive drama about motherhood begins with Elena (Witherspoon) watching as her house goes up in flames. 

    Then the story backtracks as it explores how the arrival of artist Mia (Washington) and her daughter in town, upends the privileged world Elena and her family live in.

    When’s it on? Little Fires Everywhere is on Amazon Prime now. 

  • The Luminaries

    The Luminaries
    The Luminaries: Eva Green as Lydia and Eve Hewson as Anna.

    Who’s in it? Eva Green, Eve Hewson, Himesh Patel.

    What’s it about? Author Eleanor Hatton has adapted her own 2013 Booker prize winning novel for the BBC.

     The story is set in the 1860s in New Zealand at the height of the gold rush, and is a sweeping tale ofriches, love, murder and fortune – in every sense of the word.

    When’s it on? All episodes of The Luminaries are on BBC iPlayer

  • My Brilliant Friend - The Story of a New Name

    Gaia Girace as Lila and Margherita Mazzucco as Elena, My Brilliant Friend

    Who’s in it? Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace.

    What’s it about? The second chapter of Elena Ferante’s beloved Neopolitan novels about female friendship is being bought to life after the success of My Briliant Friend

     The HBO drama sees Elena and Lila expanding out of the Naples’ neighbourhood they came of age in. Lila is now married, but all is not well in her relationships while Elena is a student in Pisa, but not as happy as she’d hoped.

    When’s it on? The Story of a New Name are on Now TV.

Images: BBC, Netflix, Sky, Getty, Hulu, Starzplay, ITV