Martin Amis’s Money is now a two-parter on BBC2 – but which other adaptations of modern-day novels are worth watching?
As Nick Frost shuffles onto our screens as John Self, the boozy screenwriting anti-hero of Martin Amis’s much-loved 1980s cult novel Money, it seems like a good time for Six To Watch to look at some other books that have found their way onto TV. Of course there are the bonnets and britches of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens – but lets keep things a bit more recent. What other contemporary novel adaptations have you loved – or hated? Do they work better if you haven’t read them first? The standard line is that novel adaptations never live up to the version you had playing in your head, but have you ever watched something without reading it first and then been disappointed when you’ve read the source material? Are there any books you’re dying to watch? Here are six to get you started – which others would you add?
The Buddha of Suburbia (1993)
Before playing Lost’s in-house torturer Sayid, Naveen Andrews starred in the BBC’s adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s 1990 novel with Harish Patel and Brenda Blethyn. Complete with a David Bowie theme tune, it’s an energetic romp through the culture clashes of 1970s suburbia – as much about the moment when hippies became punks as it is about growing up in multicultural London.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1990)
Jeanette Winterson wrote the screenplay for this Bafta-winning adaptation of her 1985 novel. Starring the late Charlotte Coleman, it’s a series that’s richly realised, full of the claustrophobia of growing gay up in a heavily religious community. Featuring Geraldine McEwan, Kenneth Cranham and Cathryn Bradshaw.
The Rotters Club (2005)
Another coming of age story. Jonathan Coe’s 2001 novel about a school full of wannabe music journalists, teenage prog rockers and sleazy art teachers made for the best kind of light entertainment, with a script from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (the team behind Auf Weidersehen Pet, The Likely Lads and Porridge). Geoff Breton, Rasmus Hardiker, Alice Eve and Nicholas Shaw are the kids in the class; Kevin Doyle, Hugo Speer, Sarah Lancashire and Julian Rhind-Tutt are among the adults also getting an education.
White Teeth (2002)
Om Puri and Phil Davis anchor this entertaining version of Zadie Smith’s 2000 novel. With Geraldine Smith, Naomie Harris and Christopher Simpson in the double role as twins Magid and Millat, the story crosses between Bangladesh and England, and from the 1970s to the 1990s. Look out for a young Russell Brand as a character called Merlin in a hippy commune.
Tipping The Velvet (2002)
It only took four years for Sarah Waters‘ 1998 novel to get the small screen treatment. Andrew Davies – go-to screenwriter for a bit of sexed-up Austen – didn’t have to add much steam to this tale of Victorian lesbians, starring Keeley Hawes as drag king Kitty Butler, and Rachael Stirling as Nan the oyster picker who falls for her.
No 1 Ladies Detective Agency (2008)
Alexander McCall Smith’s long-running series of amiable detective novels got a lavish BBC/HBO co-production, with the late Anthony Minghella directing the pilot he co-wrote with Richard Curtis. It’s a bit like Marple in Botswana. With US soul singer Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe, Anika Noni Rose as Mma Grace Makutsi and Lucian Msamati as Mr JLB Matekoni.