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Aria Mia Loberti as Marie-Laure in 'All the Light We Cannot See'. Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix © 2023

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Literary Adaptations: 8 Books to Watch

From 'All the Light We Cannot See' to 'Eileen' to 'The Boys in the Boat,' these TV shows and films are a bibliophile's delight / BY Robert Wiersema / November 17th, 2023


The nights are getting longer and temperatures are dropping, which are ideal reasons to relax and curl up with a good book.  As winter approaches, we’ve got a new twist on some classic titles with literary adaptations made for big and small screens. But don’t spend too much time debating whether you should read the book or see the show first; simply be grateful we live in a world where we can have both.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Eileen directed by William Oldroyd

The debut novel from Ottessa Moshfegh, the American author of Lapvona and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, made quite a splash when it was published in 2015, winning the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award; it was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Like the book, the film adaptation is a suspenseful, powerful account of the relationship between Eileen Dunlop (Thomasin McKenzie) and Rebecca Saint John (Anne Hathaway) – a new counsellor at a juvenile detention facility – and its slow, escalating burn goes in directions you won’t imagine. Part coming-of-age story, part noir and part thriller, both film and book are not to be missed. (In theatres Dec. 8.)

 


2American Fiction directed by Cord Jefferson

In this film, which hews closely to the plot of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison has had enough. Not only is his own writing seen as “not Black enough” by publishers and his agent, he is disgusted when a cliched, pandering novel is hailed by critics and becomes a bestseller. In response, he writes a satire of Black culture and fiction, as lowbrow as he can manage. The trouble is, the novel (published under a pseudonym) is taken seriously, and becomes a cultural sensation. The movie, which stars Jeffrey Wright as Ellison, Sterling K. Brown as his brother and Tracee Ellis Ross as his sister, won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is generating lots of buzz as a contender for best picture at the Oscars. (In theatres Dec. 22)


3Bodies created by Paul Tomalin

Some weekends, there’s nothing better than staying in your pyjamas and bingeing a new series, and Bodies, now streaming on Netflix, is a perfect choice (and I’m writing from experience). The twisting, time-shifting mystery centres on the discovery of the same, unidentifiable body being found in London’s Whitechapel district in 1890, 1941, 2023 and 2053 – with four different detectives featured in each timeline. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Si Spencer (which was out of print until the series premiered last month), Bodies is a treat for mystery lovers, time-travel fans, those who loved Netflix’s Dark, and anyone who likes to lose eight hours on the couch.


4All the Light We Cannot Seedirected by Shawn Levy

While the initial reviews have been divided, viewers have flocked to Netflix’s adaptation of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and rightly so. The bestselling book, published in 2014, was a thing of beauty, following the lives of two teenagers – blind French girl Marie-Laure and German soldier and radio technology enthusiast Werner – whose lives converge during the Second World War. If the four-episode adaptation is half as good as the book, it’s worth watching, not to mention the supporting cast features Mark Ruffalo and Hugh Laurie. Needless to say, the novel is a must-read.


5The Boys in the Boat directed by George Clooney

What would an Oscar season be without an inspiring sports movie? This year, that film is The Boys in the Boat, which follows the University of Washington’s men’s 8 rowing crew as they come together in the depths of the Great Depression to train for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Based on the 2013 book by Daniel James Brown, director George Clooney is throwing his hat in the awards-season ring with this historical feature. (In theatres Dec. 25)


6Leave the World Behind directed by Sam Esmail

Ready for a little tension? Amanda and Clay Sanford (Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke) are vacationing in Long Island with their teenage children when they are interrupted by a couple (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la Herrold) who claim to be the owners of the luxe rental where the Sandfords are staying, and who bring news of a cyberattack in New York. With no internet, television or power, the Sandfords have no way to determine who the strangers are, and how much of their story is true. Tensions mount incrementally in the 2020 novel by Rumaan Alam, so I expect a powerful experience when it is translated for the screen. (In select theatres Nov. 22; on Netflix Dec. 8).


7The Buccaneers directed by Susanna White

Admit it – there’s a Bridgerton-shaped hole in your current television lineup, isn’t there? AppleTV’s eight-episode series will definitely tide you over until Season 3 of the Bridgerton’s is released (hopefully in 2024). Based on an unfinished novel by Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers follows the culture clash between nouveau American riche and old English money in the waning years of the 19th century, when a group of girls and young women from New York travel to England, chaperoned by a couple of their mothers (including one played by Christina Hendricks). Naturally, hijinks, romantic entanglements and steaminess ensue. Sure, Wharton probably didn’t envision scenes from her novel set to Taylor Swift, but why not?


8A Haunting in Venice directed by Kenneth Branagh

For the third instalment in Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptations (following 2022’s Death on the Nile and 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express), the actor/director returns as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who is enjoying retirement in Venice until he gets an offer he can’t refuse: his friend, mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), solicits Poirot to attend, and debunk, a seance. In a haunted house. On Halloween. Branagh takes liberties with his source material – Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel, Hallowe’en Party – but the result is a sleek, chilling mystery, beautifully shot and well-acted, with a fair number of scary moments. (In theatres and streaming on Disney+)

 


THE SCROLL

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