I love seeing adaptations of my favorite classic novels (when they are good). Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Jane Austen continue to thrive in popular culture, even in the 21st century. But as much as I love Austen, I do recognize that are just as wonderful and captivating books that deserve the same attention, adaptation wise. I’m not saying it would be the best but just like the first person who decided to adapt Pride and Prejudice, it doesn’t hurt to give different classics a try.
So here are 11 titles that I would love to see adapted in film and TV:
Note: The links direct you to Project Gutenberg, a site where you can download public domain books for free. Quicksand and The Woman of Colour: A Tale will redirect you to Bookshop.org.
Evelina by Frances Burney
A young and naïve girl entering London high society is a story that may have been told numerous times (especially when Jane Austen is involved) but reading Burney gave Austen the inspiration to write her own amazing works. It’s only fair that Burney receives the same treatment. But not only that, it would be really interesting to see the epistolary novel on the small or big screen.
The Last Man by Mary Shelley
Everyone knows Shelley’s well know book, Frankenstein, but a lot of people don’t know about this one. It might be long book to get through but this is one that should not be an overlooked. With its social commentary on society life of its time but an apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction novel by an author who helped spearhead the genre would be such an interesting prospect to see on the screen.
Helen by Maria Edgeworth
People recognize Belinda by Edgeworth more than this one (don’t worry Belinda is on this list) but this is another classic that fans of the Regency period will get a huge kick out of this humorous comedy of manners.
The Woman of Colour: A Tale by Anonymous
With diversity being added to Regency period films, wouldn’t it be lovely to see this one adapted. The early depiction of a race conscious mulatto heiress was just so beautifully done that even Austen could of written this herself. Maybe she did but the writer is unknown but the recent attention it has received will catch someone’s attention who can make it a dream come true.
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Here is another long book but an author that Austen frequently read during her lifetime. It was even mentioned and parodied in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Radcliffe was very popular in her day with her eloquent writing of the supernatural and help spearhead the Gothic genre. It might be a difficult book to adapt on the screen but that hasn’t stop media companies before so they definitely should give this one a try.
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
Wharton may have won a Pulitzer for her well-known novel, The Age of Innocence, but I feel this one is her true masterpiece. The comedy of manners about the selfish heroine, Undine Spraggs will have you laughing and yelling at the absurdity of New York society. This book is just calling for an adaptation however, it looks like we will be getting our wish soon!
Belinda by Maria Edgeworth
Maria Edgeworth’s 1801 novel, Belinda, is an absorbing, sometimes provocative, tale of social and domestic life among the English aristocracy and gentry. Just like Evelina and Helen this is another classic that will be a real treat for fans of that era.
Marriage by Susan Ferrier
Consider to be one of Scotland’s greatest writers, with Sir Walter Scott considered Ferrier his equal. A novel that is full of wit and observation compared to similar novelists such as Austen and Burney will be a treat for readers and viewers who like to be entertained by a society that thinks so highly of themselves. I can definitely see this as a miniseries, similar to Downton Abbey.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Gilman is known for her short story The Yellow Wall-Paper , however she also wrote a feminist and dystopian classic, Herland, a wry novel that imagines a peaceful, progressive country from which men have been absent for 2,000 years. We have The Handmaid’s Tale TV show depicting the rights of women taken away, so now I would love to see adaptation where the power is within the women.
Short Stories of Elizabeth Gaskell
Apart from North and South and Cranford, Gaskell is also well know for her gothic short stories. It’s always a treat to reread the ones I have encountered and discover new ones along the way. It was hard to pick just one that deserves an adaptation so I decided to name a few of my favorites. Maybe someone will do a TV show of Gaskell’s short stories?