There are more and more big budget adaptations coming to television these days, meaning book lovers having a greater chance of seeing their favourite stories up on screen.
The 10 shows below are just a few of those I’ve enjoyed most:
The BBC’s adaptation of Henning Mankell’s famous series of crime novels featuring Swedish detective Kurt Wallander is fantastic; a pitch-perfect version of the books.
Kenneth Branagh perfectly captures Wallander’s morose nature and the emotional impact each case has on him. He’s a man struggling with the effects of divorce and an ageing father, whilst having to solve some horrific murders.
The cinematography in this programme is also outstanding, shifting from lingering, colour saturated shots of the Swedish countryside to washed out scenes reflecting the dark nature of Wallander’s cases.
This series is also notable as a pre-Hollywood role for Thor star Tom Hiddleston, who plays young, put-upon detective Martinsson.
Apparently the BBC are working on a fourth series of Wallander to be shown this year. Can’t wait!
Game of Thrones
I couldn’t write a list of my favourite book to television adaptations without mentioning Game of Thrones. Both the books and the TV show are brilliant, but your experience of the story will probably be influenced by whichever you came to first. I watched the first three series without having read the books, and am not enjoying series four quite as much now that I’ve read ahead.
The producers have always been fairly faithful to the narrative, although the last series has begun to deviate a little more from the story, perhaps to account for the slower pace of certain plotlines.
It’s difficult to imagine how this will play out over the next few years, as it seems likely that the television show will reach the story’s conclusion before George RR Martin can publish his final novel. It will be interesting to see if the show stays true to Martin’s vision, as it would be a shame for them to reveal the ending before the books can.
The Vampire Diaries
The small screen version of The Vampire Diaries is a rare thing: a television show that is better than the book it’s based on. I don’t think I read more than the first novel in the series before I gave up and decided to stick to the show.
A glossy but mature teen drama, this series is full of intricate plot twists and like Game of Thrones, it isn’t averse to killing off a major character or two.
This supernatural high school drama was one of my favourite shows of the late Nineties/early Noughties, although it was often overlooked against the genre defining Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But Roswell has a huge amount going for it: a clever, suspenseful narrative, engaging characters and a central romance that you’re rooting for, despite the obstacles.
The casting of the central duo, Max Evans and Liz Parker, was inspired, with Jason Behr and Shiri Appleby bringing the literally star-crossed lovers to life with their chemistry.
It also stars a young Katherine Heigl, before she was in Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up, plus Tom Hanks’ actor son Colin.
Pride and Prejudice
This is still the definitive adaptation of Jane Austen’s story, even now, almost 20 years later. The BBC’s version of Pride and Prejudice is such a part of the national consciousness that a statue depicting the iconic moment when Colin Firth’s Darcy emerges from the lake was erected last year in Hyde Park, before being moved to several sites, including one of the locations for the original production.
Another BBC adaptation, this four-part version of Jane Eyre was dark, engaging and well-acted. I also enjoyed the most recent film version, starring Michael Fassbender.
North and South
A classic adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, this series brilliantly captures life in a 19th century northern mill town: its bleak winters, economic hardships, and class divides.
It also features a central romance in the Pride and Prejudice mould, with a young, intelligent woman who refuses to marry a man she dislikes, before coming to realise that her initial opinion of him may have been wrong.
As I’ve mentioned before, Elementary is my favourite of the current crop of Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The updates to the story have given it a greater emotional resonance, and casting Dr Watson as a woman was a brilliant, if controversial move, that has really paid off now that the relationship between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Holmes and Watson has grown over the course of two series.
Although Sherlock is a much more popular show, this version of the classic detective is worth watching and it’s distinct enough to be its own story.
The final series of True Blood will be starting soon, and I can’t believe it’s already been on our screens for so long.
Anna Paquin makes a great Sookie Stackhouse, the telepathic Louisiana waitress who has to deal with all manner of often bloody supernatural drama. Plus she does have an attractive array of suitors to enjoy!
Based on Washington Irving’s short story, the latest screen version of Sleepy Hollow is actually pretty compelling, as Ichabod Crane wakes up in the present day and teams up with a young deputy to vanquish the headless horseman and assorted demons.
Which are your favourite book to TV adaptations?