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Book adaptations for movie and TV in 2020

These are the novels you'll be wanting to pick up ahead of their adaptations for film and television

Timothee Chalamet plays Paul Atreides in Dune (2020)
Published: Tuesday, 11th August 2020 at 3:10 pm

The entertainment industry has been hard hit by the global events of this year. While many releases were pushed back into next year or even indeterminately, other TV shows and films managed to complete filming pre-pandemic or have been able to adapt to continue creating content.


Now cinemas have begun to screen new releases again, we can once again indulge in the excitement around films like £40 million-making Tenet, (that was only in its first weekend), and the much-anticipated Dune, due out later this year.

Further quality content has been released on the likes of Disney+ and Netflix and there are still plenty of exciting new movies due out throughout the rest of the year.

Many of these upcoming projects have drawn inspiration from the printed page, with screens small and big alike adapting contemporary best-sellers and all-time literary classics.

Works by big names like Beatrix Potter, Agatha Christie and Phillip Pullman are all set to be screened as shiny new adaptations off the page, and will be popping up in cinemas and living rooms across the country.

Want to check out the original story ahead of the screen version's debut? Or catch up once they've aired? These are the books you need to read and when you can expect to watch the latest adaptations throughout this year.

Strike: Lethal White – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Strike: Lethal White filming – Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger

BBC One, September 2020

The fourth novel in the Cormoran Strike series written by JK Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) has been adapted for BBC One and is set to air in 2020. The series follows private investigator, Strike (Tom Burke), and his sleuthing partner, Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger).

Strike: Lethal White begins when Strike receives an unsolicited visit from Billy Knight, a man in the grips of psychosis, who claims to have witnessed a child being strangled and buried many years ago.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil, from the Strike series, have previously been adapted for BBC One.

Buy Lethal White: Cormoran Strike

The Devil All the Time – Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil All The Time: Tom Holland as Arvin Russell.

Netflix, 16th September

Donald Ray Pollock’s 2011 debut The Devil All the Time is set in post-World War II Southern Ohio, US during the 1960s.

The story follows a collection of disturbed characters including a veteran struggling with the psychological damage of the war, a false preacher and a serial killer husband and wife.

The film, expected to be released this year, is produced by Jake Gyllenhaal and stars Marvel heroes Tom Holland and Sebastian Stan alongside Eliza Scanlen (Little Women) and Robert Pattinson (Twilight).

Buy The Devil All the time by Donald Ray Pollock

The North Water – Ian McGuire

Colin Farrell in The North Water - now filming for BBC Two - TNW_NW_0310_EP4_7269

BBC Two, late 2020

This tale of darkness explores the dying days of Hull’s whaling industry in the late 1850s through the lens of a six month voyage to the Arctic on a Greenland whaler, the Volunteer.

The North Water opens with brutality and violence as readers witness Henry Drax murder a man who has aggravated him in a bar. Drax signs onto the Volunteer alongside former army surgeon Patrick Sumner who joins the voyage under false pretences, fleeing the horrors of his past.

This brutish and violent drama is as much an exploration of the human relationship with nature as it is the relationships of characters to each other.

The Man Booker-nominated novel has been adapted and directed by Andrew Haigh for the BBC. BAFTA winner Jack O’Connell will star in the BBC as Patrick Sumner alongside Colin Farrell as the amoral, Henry Drax.

The four part series offers an interesting insight into the futility of man against nature within the modern day context of global warning and the pressing relevance of climate change.

Buy The North Water by Ian McGuire

The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman


BBC One, November 2020

After the success of the televised version of His Dark Materials, the BBC and HBO will continue the series with an adaptation of The Subtle Knife. The second novel in Philip Pullman’s cult fantasy trilogy will again be an eight-part series.

The trilogy is set in in Oxford, in an alternative world, where people are accompanied by their daemons – a physical manifestation of a person’s soul, which takes the form of an animal.

12 year old Lyra, whose daemon is called Pantalaimon or 'Pan', lives in Jordan College, Oxford where she was left as a baby by her uncle, Lord Asriel. Instead of studying, she spends most of her days causing havoc with kitchen boy, Roger, and friends. Things abruptly change, however, when charming socialite Mrs Coulter arrives at Jordan, offering to take Lyra away to live with her.

Buy The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman or you can buy all three novels in the His Dark Materials Set

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden

Sky Cinema, 23rd October

Classic children’s story The Secret Garden, first published in 1911, tells the tale of Mary Lennox, an unloved, neglected child raised in India, who finds herself orphaned after a Cholera epidemic kills her parents. Mary is sent to Yorkshire to live with her wealthy hunchbacked uncle, Mr Archibold Craven at Misselthwaite Manor.

The story follows the adventures of Mary, her brother Dickon and her cousin Colin and their magical encounters in the Secret Garden.

The film adaptation coming to Sky Cinema will star Dixie Egerickx as Mary, Colin Firth as Archibald Craven and Julie Walters as Mrs Medlock.

Buy The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Us – David Nicholls

Us - First Look

BBC One, 20th September

Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Us tells the story of Douglas Petersen, an industrial biochemist, whose art gallerist wife (of almost a quarter of a century) Connie informs him that she thinks the marriage is over. Douglas still loves Connie, madly. They both agree to go on the grand European tour (that they have recently booked) before Albie, their 18 year old son, goes to college.

Petersen takes this trip as a chance to sway his wife’s mind. This four part drama, adapted by David Nicholls from his own book, will star Tom Hollander as Douglas Petersen and Saskia Reeves will play Connie.

Buy Us by David Nicholls

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit

11th December

One of Beatrix Potter’s best-loved characters, Peter Rabbit was made into a children’s film starring James Corden as the voice of Peter in 2018.

In the sequel, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Bea marries Mr Thomas McGregor and her books about the antics of the rabbits gain popularity. Peter decides to sneak away and live up to his badly-behaved reputation.

James Corden stars again as the voice of Peter Rabbit with Rose Byrne as Bea and Domhnall Gleeson as McGregor.

Buy The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express - Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)
20th Century Fox

23rd October

Death on the Nile is one of Agatha Christie’s most popular murder mystery novels featuring the acclaimed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Sir Kenneth Branagh directs and stars following the success of his 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.

The film's cast includes Gal Gadot (Wonderwoman), Emma Mackey (Sex Education), Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Russel Brand as well as both (Dawn) French and (Jennifer) Saunders.

Buy Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Buy Poirot collection including Death on the Nile

Dune – Frank Herbert

18th December

Frank Herbert’s acclaimed science fiction saga Dune is set in the future in an interstellar society.

Paul Atreides’s family is entrusted with the planet Arrakis which is the only source of “the spice”, a precious element that extends life and helps the people navigate space.

The 2020 film stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Zendaya as Chani.

Buy Dune by Frank Herbert

News of the World – Paulette Jiles

Tom Hanks

Pushed to 1st January 2021

The 2016 novel News of the World follows Captain Kidd, a man who makes his living travelling to small towns, charging locals a dime to read them the news.

Then, a 10-year-old hostage girl, Johanna is released after four years of captivity and Captain Kidd must travel to Texas to try and reunite her with her aunt and uncle.

Tom Hanks stars in the lead role as Captain Kidd with Helena Zengel as Johanna.

Buy News of the World by Paulette Jiles

The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan

Disney+, 21st August

In Katherine Applegate’s children's book The One and Only Ivan, a silver-backed gorilla named Ivan lives in a mall with his elephant friend Stella. Ivan is content with his life unlike Stella, who can remember happier times with the circus and longs to live in a zoo.

After Ivan sees the treatment a young elephant named Ruby experiences when she arrives at the mall, they hatch a plan to escape.

Sam Rockwell voices Ivan, Angelina Jolie is Stella and Brooklynn Prince is Ruby while other voices include Helen Mirren and Danny DeVito, with Bryan Cranston leading the cast of human characters.

Buy The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Without Remorse, by Tom Clancy

Michael B Jordan

Pushed to 2021

In the book, Navy SEAL John Clark’s pregnant wife is killed in a car crash before he later begins a relationship with a hitchhiker named Pam. He eventually learns Pam is an escaped drug mule and prostitute before she is recaptured and killed. John is set on a path for revenge which wraps him up in complicated missions.

From the descriptions of the film so far, it seems that the plot is slightly different from the book. It’s John Clark’s wife who is murdered and he seeks revenge for her death, rather than the character Pam.

Michael B. Jordan plays John Clark, getting lost inside a deeper conspiracy in his quest to avenge his wife.

Buy Without Remorse by Tom Clancy

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

Netflix, 21st October 

Alfred Hitchcock directed the famous 1940 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca.

The classic novel is being revived again for selected big screens and Netflix, starring Lily James and Armie Hammer.

The plot follows a young woman (James) who becomes engaged to a wealthy man (Hammer) after a whirlwind romance. However, after moving into his estate, she begins ask questions about his late wife Rebecca and the life her fiancé had with her.

Buy Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

Deep Water

Ben Affleck Ana de Armas Deep Water

20th November 

Thriller Deep Water is set to hit the big screen this year starring real life couple Ben Affleck and Knives Out star Ana de Armas. (FYI, there is going to be Knives Out sequel).

The story centres around a husband (Affleck) whose flirtatious wife (de Armas) has public affairs with other young men.

When one of her lovers is murdered, the finger of suspicion begins to point towards the husband.

Buy Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith


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