2013 has already proved that it’s the year of the book adaptation, with Hollywood and television production companies taking full advantage of the captivating stories held within the pages of novels. This year we’ve seen big screen adaptations of Warm Bodies, The Host and The Great Gatsby, which have been met with mixed reviews from the critics but generally favourable reactions from book fans. Still to come later this year are adaptations of The Mortal Instruments, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and World War Z to name but a few, and that’s not counting the many television or mini-series adaptations in the pipe-line either.
So with all these adaptations being thrown at us from every direction, are there any good novels left untouched?! You betcha! Carry on reading to discover the top 5 books that we think deserve an adaptation.
5. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Recommended by Sophie)
Definitely not to be confused with E. L. James’ book with a very similar name, Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey (subtitled ‘The Road to High Saffron’) is a fantasy of a very different kind. The novel is the first part of a forthcoming trilogy set in Chromatacia, a fictional version of the United Kingdom many years in the future where the rigid social hierarchy is based on the hereditary ability to perceive colour. Eddie Russett, our hero, is an ambitious young Red, but sparks fly when he meets Jane, a Grey whose limited colour perception puts her at the bottom of the ladder. This is a world where the production of spoons is outlawed and where colour swatches are used as both medicine and recreational drugs, but don’t be fooled by the elements of absurdity. Above all, this is a love story about the characters’ struggle against an all-pervasive bureaucratic machine that straddles the boundary between Dickensian parody and Orwellian dystopia. The importance of the visual in Shades of Grey makes it a great candidate for a film adaptation; for example, I’d be interested to see how colour filters could be used to show the perspectives of the different characters, and a young ensemble cast would be a great opportunity for some previously undiscovered British actors to enter the spotlight.
4. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (Recommended by Sue)
We only have until 9 pm tonight Paris time to complete this quest. That is to find the right scent to fill the bottle that carries the secret essence to the universe and it’s running out quickly. Alobar, the 1000-year-old janitor needs it to bring his wife back from wherever she went while they were meditating in Paris in the 16th century and Pan has agreed to help him. George Clooney would make an amazing Alobar, Jeff Goldblum could play a convincing Pan, while Reese Witherspoon with her lovely Southern drawl would make a gorgeous Priscilla. And what’s not to love about a film that drags you from ancient Bohemian forests down through Asia and back across Europe to America in the 20th Century. The story has a strong plot and subplots galore so let’s hope they can refill the bottle on time. In fact, I’ll even write the screenplay myself.
3. Villette by Charlotte Brontë (Recommended by Sophie)
There’s been such a surfeit of adaptations of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in recent years that it’s easy to forget that the Brontës ever wrote anything else, but Charlotte’s third novel, which hasn’t been adapted for the screen since 1970, would be perfect for the Sunday evening period drama miniseries spot in the TV listings. Villette is based on Charlotte’s experiences of teaching in Brussels in the 1840s. Its 23-year-old protagonist, Lucy Snowe, is remarkably observant and yet incredibly secretive and adept at hiding her true feelings even while she tries to understand them, a trait which gives her a refreshing complexity, and with the right lead – perhaps Claire Foy, who gave an admirable performance in the title role of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit in 2008 – she could easily carry a whole series with as much success as Brontë’s more famous fictional governess, Jane Eyre. Villette is also notable for its Gothic elements, which are more overt than in Charlotte Brontë’s other works and provide a valuable insight into Lucy’s psychology that is made necessary by her reticence and occasional unreliability as narrator. A good TV adaptation would be able to translate this atmosphere to a visual medium in a subtle way while retaining the overall sense of realism that has made Brontë so popular with readers.
2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Recommended by Amy)
Following the recent radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, it is high time focus turned back to the rumoured and widely-anticipated adaptation of American Gods. This choice is therefore a bit of a cheat, as Gaiman is apparently writing his third draft of an American Gods pilot for HBO in the US, so there is a tangible reason to be excited for this. The Neverwhere adaptation for radio managed to gather together a phenomenally talented cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy and Natalie Dormer to name a few) so fans can be fairly certain that a television production of American Gods will pull in an equally gifted bunch of actors (especially if HBO is backing it). American Gods follows Shadow, recently released from prison, as he becomes caught up in a battle being enacted behind the scenes of everyday reality – a war between the old gods and the new. As he falls deeper in with the mysterious conman Mr Wednesday, he finds himself travelling cross-country gathering troops in the unlikeliest of places for this imminent clash of the gods; original and stylistic with an abundance of great characters.
Just to focus on three of those characters: one of the most versatile actors of his generation, Gary Oldman would be a perfect Mr Wednesday, otherwise known as Odin. He has the charm, charisma and slyness necessary to portray this enigmatic character, and he would certainly convince as a power-hungry leader of the old gods. In keeping within the HBO family, True Blood’s Joe Manganiello has got the magnetism and physical bearing to play Shadow. Finally, Laura, Shadow’s (recently deceased) ex-wife, would be a fantastic character to watch on screen. The show would need an actress who could successfully depict Laura’s psychotic tendencies and damaged vulnerability, like Alice from BBC’s Luther except with a hint of good in her heart.
1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Recommended by Natalie)
Imagine a cross between Game of Thrones and Lord Of The Rings, with the strong female voice of Katniss from The Hunger Games as its guide. Do you have that picture in your head? Great. That’s your first glimpse of Kristin Cashore’s fantasy novel Graceling. Perhaps more suited to the film format, so as not to clash with GOT, Graceling is the story of Katsa, a young warrior whose incredible fighting ability is exploited by her uncle. Set in the Seven Kingdoms (sound familiar?), Katsa is a Graceling, a person who possesses a specific skill beyond ordinary human standards, who can be identified by mismatched and unusual coloured eyes. Katsa is graced with the art of killing, a skill that makes her the ultimate weapon against anyone who opposes her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns. Graceling is an enchanting story of self-discovery, freedom and retribution, with gripping dark undertones and two subsequent books that could make it the next big movie trilogy.
It’s aimed at the YA market but the novel has universal appeal, though it’s perhaps more female oriented than some of the fantasy adventure novels circulating at present. It’s an engaging narrative, with beautiful locations and characters that you fall head over heels for. There’s plenty of action, adventure, epic-loves and even more epic tragedies, which makes it perfect adaptation material. Reliance Entertainment have recently acquired the rights, so all we can do now is wait for the film to be made. With Jennifer Lawrence and Lily Collins as heroine competition, Graceling demands an actress with a strong on-screen presence if they want to successfully bring Katsa to life. It will be a highly coveted role suited to an actress like Emilia Clarke, who has the ability to be both vulnerable and fierce. Watch this space.
What novel would you love to see adapted?! Tell us your thoughts below.