Novelist Eleanor Catton is to try her hand at screenwriting, adapting her Man Booker Prize-winning tale, The Luminaries, for BBC2.
The nineteeth-century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush, has been snapped up by the same production company who brought us London Spy.
Described as “an epic story of love, murder and revenge”, Catton’s tale claimed the Man Booker prize back in 2013. The then 28-year-old author became the award’s youngest ever recipient for her 832-page effort.
“I feel absurdly lucky to be working with both the BBC and Working Title, whose work I have loved and learned from all my life,” the first-time screenwriter said. “Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument: the melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different. I’m having enormous fun, learning every day, and just so excited to see the world of the novel created in the flesh.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the novel, it’s all about a defiant young woman by the name of Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, “an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain”.
“As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?”
It’s the ideal mix for a six part drama, and the perfect excuse to marvel at some fantastic footage of New Zealand.
Speaking of the new project, Andrew Woodhead, Managing Director of Working Title Television, said: “I was spellbound when I first read Ellie’s novel, so it’s a privilege to be making the Television adaption with her for the BBC. The Luminaries is an incredible story, which will translate beautifully on screen; all of human life is here, in all its darkness and its light, set against this stunning New Zealand backdrop.”
Lucy Richer, BBC Acting Controller of Drama and Executive Producer, added: “Eleanor Catton’s is a major new voice for screen and we are proud to be making her first ever work for TV – an enthralling drama with a revelatory historical setting, in a landscape as unique and dazzling as her characters.”
The only snag is you’ll have to wait a while to see it. Filming will only begin in and around New Zealand in 2017.