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What’s your favourite literary TV adaptation?

Written by The Reader, 14th October 2016

The evenings are closing in, the temperature is dropping, the time seems right to make a hot brew and curl up with a book... or perhaps, the remote?

With the run up to those cold winter evenings quickly approaching, the nights are getting longer and the TV is getting better! And with this countdown to Christmas slowly beginning (11 weeks to be exact!), we cannot WAIT to see what TV programmes we can feast our eyes on this autumn and winter.

On Saturday 15 October, The Secret Life of Sue Townsend on BBC 2 will be aired, with Julie Walters narrating and celebrating the Adrian Mole author's life. This hour long film will feature unseen photographs and diary entries of Townsend proving that she is a force to be reckoned with... We can't wait!

Later on in the year, it has been rumoured that Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution, Wilkie CollinsThe Woman in White and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables will also be coming to the small screen. But, perhaps more excitingly than all of the above… Sherlock has revealed its two new titles for the upcoming series: The Six Thatchers and The Lying Detective.

It doesn’t take a lot for us here at The Reader to get into a heated discussion about what is best when it comes to literary adaptations. So, instead… We are letting you decide what the BEST literary adaptation is from our selected bunch. Read below to see our suggestions, why we think they are the best and at the very end of the page choose on our poll - If we've missed any off that you cannot believe, leave us a comment!

War and Peace, BBC 2016


“Everything I know, I know because of love” - Leo Tolstoy

Suggested by Comms Intern, Lauren Holland

Andrew Davies’ six part show unravelled the beauty and mystery within Tolstoy’s 1869 epic novel and the BBC kindly closed the sequel with a feature length episode. The large scale adaptation with its beautiful, sweeping cinematography left viewers feeling breathless as they delved into the backdrop of Russia’s war with Napoleon.

But what was more than that, was the sumptuous ballroom scene in which Prince Andrei whisked Natasha Rostova off her feet and viewers witnessed the pair fall madly in love with one another. Swoon. The shows mix of heavenly and upmost banality made it perfect January viewing.


The Queen’s Nose,  BBC 1995 – 2003896075cc251ca507ff5a082d75703f48

Suggested by Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Martin Gallagher-Mitchell…

The fact that this show was not a one off proves that the series really did stand the test of time. Keeping true to Dick King-Smith’s book, the show was a visual delight that kept young viewers (and adults) repeatedly watching the show – regardless of the departure of Harmony in 2000.

Winning the Royal Television Society 1996 award for BEST Children’s Drama and Steve Attridge receiving the 1999 Indie Award for Digital Cinematography it proves that this show was a true success – and still is now regardless of modern filming technology!

I, Claudius, BBC 1976

 “I was thinking, "So, I’m Emperor, am I? What nonsense! But at least I'll be able to make people ricead my books now” - Robert Graves

Suggested by Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Jennifer Jarman… 

Political intrigue, family dynasty and real-life history – I Claudius (first aired in the 1970s) still tops the polls as being one of the best television series of all times. John Hurt’s depiction of the despotic and capricious Caligula is truly terrifying, and is just one treat within a phenomenal cast – including Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart and Siân Phillips (and even Christopher Biggins as the young, dangerous upstart Nero).

I first watched it at the age of 12 or 13 and still try to catch it every time it’s repeated. The books on which the series is based are great, too, and made all the more fascinating as Robert Graves cross- references the action against biblical passages and other contemporary records to map the legacy of this improbably dysfunctional family against the writing of its day. Addictively Machiavellian!

Stickman, BBC 2015

“I’m not a stick! Why can’t you see, I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, I’M STICK MAN, that’s me, Ansmd I want to go to the family tree!”- Julia Donaldson

Suggested by Specialist Development Manager, Ailsa Horne…

This adaptation from Julia Donaldson’s children’s book will always be a favourite of mine, purely for nostalgic reasons. Not only is it Christmassy, but it also reminds me of Eleanor, my daughter.

Last Christmas when it aired Eleanor was three and it was the first time she had watched anything and empathised with a character. During and after the show, she asked me ‘is he going to get home, Mummy?’ I’m sure she had tears in her eyes too! I really can’t wait to watch it again with her this Christmas to see if she enjoys it just as much.

Brideshead Revisited, ITV 1981

“Tobhr understand all is to forgive all” – Evelyn Waugh

Suggested by Project Worker, Alex Joynes…

The television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited is a perfect combination of brilliant casting, stunning locations and beautiful direction. The luxury of television is the time it can give to such adaptations, meaning that we are able enjoy 11 hours basking in the splendour of Brideshead.

Pride and Prejudice, BBC 1995

“What are mepapn to rocks and mountains?”- Jane Austen

Suggested by Communications Assistant, Emma Walsh... 

I adore this series. And not solely for that scene of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. Beautifully filmed and true to the book, this is probably the best Austen adaptation ever. The casting, the costumes, the screenplay - it's all pretty perfect. To me it epitomizes lazy Sunday afternoons (and evenings, it's quite a marathon to get through them all in one sitting!) with my mum and sister. True BBC period drama brilliance.

So there we have it, The Reader's list of the best literary adaptations! As you can see, there is a varied bunch to select from, hence why we could not make an unanimous decision. Vote in the poll beneath for your favourite. Or, maybe we have missed a few that were TV gold for you... if that's the case let us know! Happy autumnal telly watching!



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