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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

6 Best Film Adaptations of Classic Books

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“Hey, Kimster!” says She Who (thinks she) Must Be Obeyed. (Insert eye roll here. Do I ever have Mom snowed!)  “I’ve got a great idea for summer reading!”

What is it now, Mom?

“Let’s revisit some of our favorites from classic British literature this summer… on film!”

You mean like that Charles D. guy? The 19th century novelist you keep bugging me to read again? As in Pip and Miss Havisham? Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay? Jacob and Ebenezer?

Exactly!

“Exactly!” chirps Her Momness.  (She always does that chirpy thing when she’s on a roll. Me? I save that for bacon.)

Anyway, that’s how we got to binge watching all things Charles Dickens-ish. And 18th century Cornwallish. Wait. Did I say “binge watching”? Well, yeah. One of us claims she doesn’t have the time to plow through Martin Chuzzlewit or Bleak House in one summer, let alone Pip and Magwitch or David Copperfield and Peggotty. 

So we’re watching (mostly) BBC productions and movies of same. Here’s what we’ve watched so far in the classic English historical fiction mode. These are our favorite film adaptations of select classic books, as noted. How many do you recognize?

Which One?

Although Her Momness is well-acquainted with most of Dickens’s work, she just found a brand new favorite. Can you guess which one it is?

But first, on with the show! If you’re looking for great dramatic productions based on great works of classic British literature, here’s what we’ve seen so far and recommend (in no particular order):

1. Poldark

By Winston Graham

The bestselling Poldark series is loved across the world for its compulsive blend of romance, drama, unforgettable characters and beautifully evocative portrayal of Cornwall.

Mom has read the first three books in this 12-part series: Ross Poldark, Demelza, and Jeremy. The BBC adaptation of Poldark books by Winston Graham ran from 2015 to 2019. It closely parallels the books for the most part. And, oh, those sweeping scenes of the Cornwall coast! Delish!

2. Dickensian

A drama set within the fictional realms of Charles Dickens’s critically acclaimed novels, Dickensian brings together some of his most iconic characters as their lives intertwine in 19th century London. The delightful Dickensian mash-up features some of our favorite characters from Great Expectations, Bleak House, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop, Our Mutual Friend, Martin Chuzzlewit, Barnaby Rudge, The Pickwick Papers, Hard Times, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Dombey and Son.

Stephen Rea as Inspector Bucket is a scene stealer!

Too bad Dickensian only lasted one season (2015 – 2016). It deserved more.

3. Doctor Thorne

By Anthony Trollope

Money, greed, and love abound in this 2016 series based on the book by Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne lives a quiet life with his niece Mary in Greshamsbury, home of the Gresham family. Unbeknownst to others, the Greshams have lost their fortune and the snobbish matriarch Lady Arabella has a scheme to regain it via an arranged marriage with her son and an American heiress. But her son is in love with Mary, who is lovable but poor. Will the heart win out over money?

A little bit of Deja vu watching this series. Some of the primary characters also appeared in Poldark.

Another series that only lasted one year but should’ve had a longer run.

4. Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens

This coming-of-age novel is a classic work of Victorian literature. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip.

The Dickens classic has seen many adaptations for the silver screen. But our favorite is the old 1946 version starring John Mills as Pip:

5. David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens

Another Dickensian novel that’s had a zillion film adaptions. We like the 1999 version with Daniel Radcliffe in the title role, but we love Peggotty (in any version):

Movie trailer starts at about 18 seconds in:

6. Little Dorrit

By Charles Dickens

Our new Dickensian favorite!

“Little Dorrit”is a wonderful story about a girl, Amy Dorrit, who’s grown up in and spent her life in debtor’s prison, along with her father and siblings. It’s a story about their lives and those whose lives they touch. Being a Dickensian novel, there’s also plenty of intrigue, mystery, and romance. Also sturdy characters, plot twists, and surprises galore. Also forgiveness and grace.

Have you read Little Dorrit? It’s a shame this book isn’t better known. It’s our new Dickensian favorite!

What are your favorite film adaptations of classic books?

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