Normal people: when book adaptations go well


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Media captionPaul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones star in Normal People

Irish writer Sally Rooney won praise for his second novel Normal People last year, winning the coveted Costa Book of the Year Award and a place on the long list of the Booker Prize.

Many fans of the book – which traces the relationship between young strangers Marianne and Connell – were nervous when the news of a television adaptation was announced.

How could he hope to match the beloved novel? But it seems that their fears were unfounded, as critics ran to praise the BBC Three adaptation.

In her five-star review, Anita Singh of the Daily Telegraph described the series – consisting of 12 half-hour episodes – as “a rare treat, the television drama that is better than the book”.

She attributes this in large part to the performances of the two main actors, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, describing the two as a formidable newcomer but singularizing Mescal because he “has more to transmit … it’s a remarkable television start”.

The two are at school together and we follow their journey through the awkward and conscious universal experience of first love, which is soon subject to peer pressure and class division.

The series landed on the entire iPayer on Sunday and the first two episodes were later aired on BBC One on Monday evening.

Eight other times the book adaptations went well

by Emma Saunders, entertainment reporter

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Emilia Clarke appeared in the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones

Jaws – Peter Benchley’s novel was a bestseller, but Steven Spielberg’s big screen adaptation of the killer shark has become a movie classic. And he had this the music.

The Godfather – Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel may have been a nice gangster drama, but Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation took him to new heights.

Psycho – Robert Bloch’s thriller was animated by Alfred Hitchcock, of course, and the rest is history. But did you know that the famous shower scene was just a line from the novel?

The Shawshank Acquisition – not everyone agrees that the beloved film is better than the book by Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons. Both are classics, but for many, the 1994 film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins has the edge.

Fight Club – well, obviously, David Fincher’s film wins hands down because he’s got Brad Pitt in it. But seriously, even the author of the book, Chuck Palahniuk, preferred the film.

Big Little Lies – a critic from the Seattle Times summed up this debate perfectly. “That doesn’t mean that Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies is not a very good read; it’s just that he didn’t have That Cast. Through these performances, I had become tangled in the lives of these women, much more than when I read the book. “(The cast included Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman … the list goes on).

Support me – we hate to do the famous Mr. King again, but the film is an 80s belter. Sorry.

The iron Throne – obviously, George RR Martin’s books were – and are – extremely popular. But the HBO fantasy series has become stratospheric.

Guardian Lucy Mangan gave the dramatization of Normal People a five-star rating, noting that “the show retains the simplified approach to the book.”

“It’s a triumph in every way, from directing and directing to script, and if we see a better drama – certainly about adolescence, which takes it seriously without treating it indulgently – this year I would be very surprised. It’s a beautiful thing, an extremely beautiful thing, ”she wrote.

They were five other stars from Ed Cumming of The Independent, who described it as “a beautiful, perfectly perfect adaptation that captures all the intensity and desire of the novel and will bring Rooney’s work to the attention of those who do not know him, all five. “

He also praised the “unassailable cast.”

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Carol Midgley of The Times, unlike most other reviewers, was not originally a fan of Normal People as a book, thinking that even though it was “well written … I got tired of the two main characters be mopey and navel. probably as it should be, however. I am not the target audience. I’m too old to remember being a shy, moody teenager, only a foggy, moody teenager. “

She argued that the TV version added significant value to the source material, giving the adaptation four stars.

“Having watched this adaptation of Rooney and the screenwriter Alice Birch, I can say it without hesitation: this is one of those very rare occasions when the screen version sweeps over the book. It is a beautiful work capturing the fervent intensity of a first adolescent sexual relationship with charm and emotion. “

The first six episodes of the drama are directed by Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson, who also directed the award-winning film The Room, with Brie Larson.

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Hettie McDonald, who directed episodes of Doctor Who and Howard’s End, takes the reins of the last six episodes.

BBC Culture writer Sarah Hughes wrote in her five-star review: “It is also unusual to find an adaptation that not only tells a story faithfully, but also builds on that story, making you want to go back to the original source and read it with these new images in mind. Normal People manages them triumphantly. Honest, tender, beautiful and sincere, this is surely one of the dramas of the year. “

Eleanor Bley Griffiths, writing in the Radio Times, like many fans of the book, voiced concerns about the television release: “Would that capture what I liked so much in the original writing? “

Fortunately, “the answer is: yes”.

It may have something to do with the involvement of Ms. Rooney herself.

“Fortunately, when it came to transferring it all to the small screen, Rooney herself was on board to co-write the scripts alongside Alice Birch,” notes Bley Griffiths.

She adds: “The cast is also absolutely perfect, with particularly brilliant performances by the two young stars who are absolutely the versions of Marianne and Connell that live in my head. “

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