9+ Book-to-Screen Adaptations for Your Watchlist
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
As I gear up to watch the rest of Netflix's Anxious People, the adaptation of Fredrik Backman's novel (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) AND the subject of our Unabridged Podcast Book Club chat this evening, I'm reminded once again of all the good stuff that's out there. I'm sure we're all aware that there are more great tv and fabulous movies than we can ever get to—that's why my own TBW (To Be Watched) list is nearly as long as my TBR. Anyway, I thought I'd jump right in and recommend some adaptations (and one adaptation-adjacent show) that I've enjoyed recently.
If you need more Backman . . .
Watch Beartown on HBO Max - While it's been a while since I read Backman's Beartown (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), this adaptation brought back allll of the emotions I felt when I read that book. I'm eagerly awaiting season 2, which I'm assuming will cover the events of Us Against You (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm). While the series doesn't have quite the depth and detail of the novel, it is just as heart wrenching, and I appreciated the nuance with which this difficult story was told.
If you're in the mood for Shakespeare . . .
Watch The Tragedy of Macbeth on Apple TV+ - Macbeth (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) is nowhere near my favorite Shakespeare (that's Hamlet!), but this adaptation is absolutely gorgeous. The casting, for me, makes this film: with Denzel Washington as Macbeth and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, I went in with high expectations, and the innovative style and intriguing interpretation of events won me over. And I couldn't look away from any scene with the Witches, played by Kathryn Hunter in a truly haunting performance.
Watch Station Eleven on HBO Max - I'm cheating the tiniest bit with this one because (of course!) it's not Shakespeare, but this series is probably going to come out on top of my list in 2022. Yes, I can say that already. And Shakespeare does make an appearance.
This limited series is based on Emily St. John Mandel's novel (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), and while it's been a while since I read it, the feeling is right. The book takes place during dual timelines: the beginning of a pandemic (and the first episode was hardest to take in that regard) and then 20 years later, when there's a society of a sort. We're following a traveling theater troupe who, this season, is performing Hamlet (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) (as you learned above, my favorite!!!). There are some haunting parallels as Kirsten, one of the protagonists, portrays Hamlet's grief and contemplates her own, and watching the place these characters make for theater and art in a post-apocalyptic America is a beautiful thing.
Watch Succession on HBO Max - Okay, I'm REALLY cheating here, but as I watched the three currently-released seasons of Succession, I was reminded again and again of King Lear (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) and of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), a Lear retelling. Succession's Roy family is consumed by greed and hunger for power, and they are deliciously awful in the same vein as Shakespeare's twisted royal family. Loved it.
If you want some Austen in your life . . .
Watch Sense and Sensibility On Demand - I'm sorry to say that you may have to buy or rent this one (I still have a copy on VHS!), but if you're in the mood for Austen, I can't recommend enough the Ang Lee's 1995 adaptation starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Alan Rickman. I'm re-reading Austen's novel (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) for my year-long Austen challenge, and I'm relishing my plan to re-watch this adaptation just as soon as I'm done!
Watch Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece - I have yet another caveat for this one. Sanditon is an unfinished novel by Austen (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), so the adaptation goes well beyond the text, which had really only just been started. And this adaptation adds some (a lot of!) steam. Though it's definitely not a traditional Austen adaptation, it's so much fun, and I can't wait for season 2 (though I'm sad that Theo James will not be returning).
Watch Death Comes to Pemberley on PBS Masterpiece - This three-episode adaptation is based on P. D. James's novel (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), which takes place six years after Pride and Prejudice (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm). I love the chance to see how Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship developed, and there's a fantastic mystery at its center.
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