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The best book to TV adaptations coming in 2020

Posted by
Helen Bownass
Published

From Normal People to Little Fires Everywhere 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? Us too. One thing they all have in common is that they all started life as books before being made into award winning TV series. And it’s a phenomenon that’s, happily, not going anywhere.

In 2020 we’ll see a library full of novels, from a Booker prize winning mystery to a contemporary love story, adapted for the small screen. TV is a particularly powerful medium for adaptations. Instead of squeezing hundreds of pages into two hours on TV there is 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 era, a bigger house or just to remember what it’s like to be a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, there’s an adaptation for everyone coming up. Here’s our pick of the most exciting… 

  • Little Fires Everywhere

    Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington

    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. And then the story backtracks, to recount how a mother and daughter become involved with a rich family, and how they all deal with an adoption dispute over a Chinese baby.

    When’s it on? Little Fires Everywhere has just finished airing in the US so it should arrive soon in the UK.   

  • Bridgerton

    Bridgerton: Producer Shonda Rhimes

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

    What’s it about? Two words: Shonda Rimes. Yes, 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 race-blind adaptation of the romance dramas by Julia Quinn about 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. 

  • Normal People

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

    Who’s in it? Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Connell 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.

    When’s it on? All episodes of Normal People areon iPlayer on March 26th or watch double weekly episodes on BBC One from 9pm Monday 27 April.

  • 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 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 it’s a sweeping story tale about riches, love, murder and fortune- in every sense of the word.

    When’s it on? The Luminaries will be on the BBC later this year.

  • 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 something is remiss and Elena is a student in Pisa, but not as happy as she’d hoped.

    When’s it on? The Story of a New Name will all be available 19 June on Sky Atlantic.

  • 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, a first for the BBC, this is the first ever adaptation of Vikram Seth’s much lauded classic novel and directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). The epic family saga is set in the 1951 just as India has been given independence and follows four families as they adapt to the new order – with particular focus on independent Lata who is determined not to marry the ‘suitable boy’ her mother wants for her.

    When’s it on? A Suitable Boy will be on BBC One later this year. 

  • 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. But before they part 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 later this year. 

  • The Undoing

    The Undoing: Nicole Kidman as Grace and Hugh Grant as Jonathan

    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 is a thriller that sees therapist Grace Fraser (Kidman) about to publish a self-help book about women who lie to themselves about what their partners do. But after a violent death and her husband goes missing Graces’s seemingly perfect life goes into freefall.

    When’s it on? The Undoing is on Sky Atlantic this Autumn.

Images: BBC, Netflix, Sky, Getty, Hulu