Book to television adaptions: Worth the watch?

While many may prefer when their favourite book is adapted into a film, I tend to find that a television series has more room to do it justice, with more time to develop its characters and explore different storylines. It is fascinating to discover which details the production team has included, what has been left out, and whether the adaptation stays true to its origins, overall. Read on to discover which TV adaptations manage to capture the essence of the book/s upon which they are based, and which ones even surpass the original.


Daisy Jones and The Six (2023) – Watch on Amazon Prime 

This story takes a behind-the-scenes look at the 1970s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six, detailing their rise to fame, and their success, until it all comes crashing down. Though the band is fictional, the transformation of this book into a television series only feeds into my delusions that this is a very real band that I can see in concert. After all, their songs from their hit album ‘Aurora’ are all available to be streamed on Spotify!

What makes the original book, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, so appealing is its unique narrative format. Rather than being written as a simple chapter-by-chapter narrative, or stream of consciousness, the novel is made up of an amalgamation of different snippets from interviews. This oral format, like a documentary script, translated well to the screen. The television adaptation emulates this format by including interview clips with each band member, where they reflect on the events of their story.

Overall, from heart-warming friendships and emotional musical performances to the agonizing feeling that comes with the ache of a love that can never be, this show has it all.


Normal people (2020) – Watch on BBC iPlayer

This is, in my opinion, the best book to screen adaptation I have seen, with the two leads perfectly encapsulating the essence of their characters, and the setting, music choices and overall production phenomenal. With Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar Jones as Marianne, the chemistry between these actors had us believing in the reality of the characters, and no one else could have done their bond justice in such a touching way. This is a beautiful story about two people with an unbreakable connection, who are always drawn back together, no matter how far apart they get and how much suffering they face. Sally Rooney’s story delves into the protagonists’ struggles with mental health. Marianne faces a severe lack of self worth, and the feeling of being disconnected from one’s own body. Meanwhile, Connell suffers from a severe depression, as he is sent into a downward spiral after joining University and constantly feeling out of place. Mescal and Edgar jones perfectly acted this out in a way that captured the sheer vulnerability of their characters, and has been able to resonate with many.

(Skip this paragraph to avoid spoilers) Though it may be an unpopular opinion, one of my favourite parts of this adaptation is how the bitter sweet ending is played out, closing with Connell and Marianne sitting sprawled on the floor of an empty room, saying goodbye and leaving us with a feeling of both emptiness and hope. Though heart-wrenchingly sad, this ending is an appropriate resolution to the story, as it leaves their ending open to our imaginations. While some may have different interpretations, I think the ultimate conclusion is clear: that Rooney implies the two will find their way back to each other, like they have innumerable times throughout their story.


Conversations with friends (2022) – Watch on BBC iPlayer

Are you craving more Sally Rooney, with the same Irish setting, beautiful cinematography and complex relationships? Then this show, in which we watch as friends Bobbi and Frances grow close with a married couple, is a good place to start. However, most of its characters, though perhaps meant to be unlikable, due to their raw honesty and true-to-life awkwardness, just come across as thoroughly frustrating. Where ‘Normal People’ excels as a book to screen adaptation, this fails to deliver in the same way, as it does not so closely adhere to the original source material. This is particularly apparent through its protagonist Frances, who comes across as an entirely different character to the one described in the book. While in the book, she has a forthright nature, speaking her mind through a variety of humorous sarcastic comments, her television characterisation is distinctly different. It would seem that, following the overwhelming success of normal people, the production team has attempted to recreate this by morphing Frances into a more shy, awkward, Marianne-like character, who is not representative of Rooney’s original vision whatsoever. With a few too many awkward silences and loaded looks, this show was in no way ground-breaking, and serves to highlight how some book to TV adaptations simply miss the mark.  


Bridgerton (2020, 2022) – Watch on Netflix

I believe this show to be of a rare case where the television adaptation is actually better than the books. Shonda Rhimes, and the rest of the team who worked on this series, succeeded at transforming Julia Quinn’s average, while entertaining, book series into a highly successful enrapturing television series. This is very largely due to the talent of the actors in portraying relationships fuelled by sizzling chemistry and palpable tension.


Anne with an E (2017, 2018, 2019) – Watch on Netflix

This is an endearing 3-series adaptation of L M Montgomery’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series. With her carrot red hair and hopeful, excitable attitude, Anne is sure to win over your heart. This series explores her search for a home, familial love, romance, friendship and, most of all, acceptance of her unique imagination. If only it had been renewed for a season 4, perhaps it would have been able to further delve into the rest of the book series, which spans over 8 novels and details Anne’s transformation from an abandoned orphan, who sees the magic in the world, to a young woman.


Featured image: Ron Lach via Pexels 

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