Mia, on what she knows best.
If you are a loyal reader of this blog (You are, aren’t you?), then you’ve probably noticed that every third post or so, I manage to sneak in a “LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT BRITISH FILMS BASED ON BOOKS” moment. I will not apologize for this. I refuse to apologize for my love of books come to life. Also: pretty costumes. As such, I was delighted a few weeks ago to see that The Awl featured a list of 10 British costume dramas you should check out. To which I reply, belatedly, “Yes, yes, but there are more!”
So, take it from someone whose default Netflix recommendation is for “British Period Pieces with a Strong Female Lead Based on the Book” – here are some recent adaptations that do justice to their lady-penned books.
Wuthering Heights, 2009
The only other adaptation I’ve seen of this Emily Bronte book is the 1939 feature film starring Laurence Olivier. Which, you know, swoon. But it’s a tad too 1939-Hollywood-melodrama for my taste. Because what I really want is 2009-British TV-melodrama. And this version delivers. Seriously, watch the trailer: watch Heathcliff lay down in the coffin with Cathy’s boney remains. I dare you not to cry three to five times during your viewing.
Now that you’re emotionally drained, you’re probably in the mood for something cozier. Something starring, say, Judy Dench. Well. Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford is pretty much as cozy as it gets. I mean, sure, there’s a bit of class struggle and some gruesome scenes of 19th century surgery. But the miniseries abounds with small-town gossip and restrained humor. Extra points for portraying a society in which women play pivotal – and powerful – roles.
Persuasion might be my favorite Jane Austen novel, and this TV movie is among my favorite Austen adaptations. (Okay, yes, if this were Literature Adaptations for Beginners, I’d probably include the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. Because, swoon. But we’re more Advanced here, aren’t we?) This is a story about second chances and growing older – it’s not Austen’s cheeriest story from the outset, but it is very funny, and though the story is predictable, it’s the sort of predictability that’s very satisfying from a love story. Also this is one of the better love letters in literature; please direct similar epistles to me to @canon_blog.
I Capture the Castle, 2003
Now, while I love a good 19th century period piece, I’m also quite fond of early 20th century period pieces, since I’m a fan of industry and innovation and looking at outfits that I could maybe incorporate into my own wardrobe. I’ve mentioned Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle here before – I just can’t say enough good things about this coming-of-age story about a girl and her wacky family who live in a crumbling castle in 1930s England. Then some Americans come to town. And love! Love is in the air! But we also learn a lot about ourselves. Playing the lead role is Romola Garai, who also stars in another classic novel adaptation or two that you should see.
Which favorites did I miss, readers? Are there maybe movies based on books by women who aren’t British? (Yes?) Please share.