The Book’s The Thing…

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE - Seema Goswami

IF YO U AR E a fan of Ele n a Fe rran te , an d (like m e ) are suffe rin g with drawal pan gs afte r h avin g de voure d e ve - ry word sh e h as e ve r writte n , th e n I h ave som e good news for you. Th e Ital­ian film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion com pany, W ild­side, h as an­nounced th at it is work­ing on adaptin g Fe rran te ’s N e apoli­tan quarte t in to a T V se rie s, along­with pro­ducer Fan­dango. Th e se­ries will be sh ot in Italy, an d in Ital­ian .

Th e four nov­els, wh ich trace th e friendsh ip of Lenu andLi­naover­hal­facen­tury,will­beadapte­d­in­toafourse ason T V se rie s, with e ach n ove l tak in g in e igh t e pisode s, m akin g it a 32-e pisode block­buste r. Fe rran te is be lie ve d to be in­volve d in th e pro­duc­tion, th ough no­body quite knows in wh at ca­pac­ity or h ow close ly. But th e n , give n th at n obody e ve n kn ows wh o Fe rran te is – sh e is still ze alously clin gin g tigh t to h e r an on ym ity – th at can ’t be ve ry sur­prisin g.

Nore­lease date has­been an­nounced­butIam al re ady sali­vat­ing with an­tic­i­pa­tion. Th e story of Lenu and Lina con­sum ed m e en­tirely as I raced to th e fi­nal book in th e quarte t, The Story of the Lost Child, an d I can ’t wait to se e th is tale of fe m ale frie n dsh ip re told in a vis­ual m e dium .

O f course , th is an tic­i­pa­tion is tin ge d with a dash of fear. It is th e sam e fear th at ev­ery book-lover ex­pe­ri­ences

And some­times it’s even bet­ter when it is adapted for TV or a movie

wh e n a we ll-love d book is turn e d in to a m ovie or a T V se rie s. I fe lt th at fe ar wh e n th e first se ason of Game of Thrones was re­leased, not sure h ow th at tale of kings and knigh ts, love an d lust, pride an d pas­sion , would work on th e T V scre e n .

W ould it all look a bit ridicu­lous, like som e cos­tum e dram as te n d to do? W ould th e story h ave th e sam e powe r on TV as it did in th e book? W ould th e ch ar­ac­ters be re­duce d to car­i­ca­ture s be cause of th e de m an ds of th e vis­ual m e dium ? W ould it just be com e ye t an oth e r bodice -rippe r of th e kindth atlit­terth e tele­vi­sion uni­verse?

You can im agin e m y re lie f wh e n th e T V se rie s prove d to be as m uch of a trium ph as th e books. O f course , I fe lt a lit­tle m iffed th at I al­ready knew wh at was goin g to h appe n , th us losin g out on th e th rill of an­tic­i­pa­tion th at oth er vie we rs, wh o h adn ’t re ad th e book , we re fe e lin g. But th e n , Ge orge R R Martin , rath e r obli­gin gly, we n t off script in th e late r se ason s, an d I could watch with the sam e edge-of-the-seat ex­citem ent th at n on -re ade rs we re priv­ile ge d to e xpe rie n ce .

So, yes, I am a tad ner­vous about h ow th e Fe rran te will sur­vive th e tran sition to our T V scre e n s. Just as I am both n e rvous an d e xcite d about th e m ovie adap­ta­tion of Long­bourn th at is in th e work s. R an dom House Stu­dio an d Fo­cus Fe ature s h ave ac­quire d th e film righ ts to Jo Bake r’s n ove l about life be low­stairs in th e Be n n e t h ouse h old m ade fam ous by Jan e Auste n (Pride and Prej­u­dice), an d th e re le ase date is te n tative ly se t for 2017. I just h ope an d pray th at th is adap­ta­tion re m ain s true to th e ori­gin al an d doe sn ’t go down th e Down­ton Abbey route .

But th e one auth or wh ose works I long to see on tele­vi­sion is Ge orge tte He ye r (just on e of h e r book s, The Re­luc­tant Widow, h as be e n m ade in to a film –an­dapret­ty­badoneat th at!). Th e pro­lific auth or of R egency rom an­ces h as given us­such am az­ingchar­ac­ter­sas The Grand So­phy, Ara­bella, Fred­er­ica, Vene­tia, and it would be an ab­so­lute tre at to se e th e m com e alive on the TV scre e n . But for som e re ason , Bri­tish T V com pan ie s are too busy film in g Pride and Prej­u­dice again and again an d again to pay an y atte n tion to th e pos­si­bil­i­tie s in h e re n t in th e se He ye r h e roin e s.

And th at is an ab­so­lute pity, if you ask m e. He ye r te lls ab­so­lute ly crackin g sto­rie s, in tri­cate ly plotte d an d le ave n e d with wit an d h um our. An d h e r h e roin e s are th e ab­so­lute be st; pluck y lit­tle cre ature s wh o do th e ir be st in a so­cie ty th at h e m s th e m aroun d with strict rule s of e tique tte .

W h o e lse but He ye r could com e up with a h e roin e like Soph ia Stan ton -Lacy wh o com e s vis­itin g h e r aun t with a lit­tle m on ke y to gift h e r youn g cousin s, an d th in ks n oth in g of con fron tin g an e vil m on e yle n de r with an e le gan t but e ffe ctive pis­tol? O r th e im pish Le on ie de Sain t-V ire , wh o m asque rade s as a youn g page in P arisian so­cie ty, be fore be in g unve ile d as an aris­to­cratic be auty? O r e ve n th e stun n in gly beau­ti­ful Deborah Granth am , rel­e­gated to th e fringes of po­lite so­cie ty as Faro’s Daugh­ter, wh o m ake s th e gre ate st con­questof th em all?

I could go on listin g th e m arve llous, re source ful, witty, in te llige n t, be au­ti­ful wom e n wh o pe ople He ye r’s sto­rie s (th e h e ad­stron g Lady Se re n a Car­low, Judith T ave rn e r, Mary Ch al­loner are just som e nam es th at com e to m ind), but th e n we ’d be h e re fore ve r. In ste ad you could go ove r to pe tition and sign a pe­ti­tion ask­ing th at Heyer’s n ove ls be m ade in to m ovie s.

T h ough , if you ask m e , te le vi­sion is be tte r suite d to te llingHeyer’ssto­ries(in­myview,moviesare­likeshort­sto­rie s, on ly T V se rie s can do jus­tice to th e swe e p of a n ove l). Surely th e BBC or ITV, wh ich spends m il­lions on pe­riod dram as of du­bi­ous qual­ity, could pick up on e He ye r R e ge n - cy rom ance – m y per­sonal favourite would be The Grand So­phy – and adapt it into a six-part se­ries. I would bet m y en­tire col­lec­tion of tat­tered copies of Heyer’s nov­els th at it would do so well th at pro­duc­tion com pa­nies would be scram blin g for th e righ ts to th e books ye t to be film e d.

So, com e on guys, look sh arp. T h is is a world of fic­tion be yon d Jan e Auste n an d Ju­lian Fe llowe s th at be ckon s.


I am a tad ner­vous about how Elena Fer­rante’s Neapoli­tan quar­tet (to be adapted into a TV se­ries) and Jo Baker’s novel, Long­bourn, (to be made into a movie) will sur­vive the tran­si­tion; the one au­thor whose works I long to see on tele­vi­sion is Ge­or­gette Heyer


One hopes a new film re­leas­ing next year based on a book ac­quired by Ran­dom House Stu­dio and Fo­cus Fea­tures doesn’t go down the Down­ton Abbey (be­low) route

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