Sense and Sensibility
There’s yet to be an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic to rival Ang Lee’s 1995 version, which had Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as the Dashwood sisters, one representing sense (Thompson) and one sensibility (Winslet, who won her first Oscar for the role). At the outset, the Dashwoods find their circumstances greatly changed following the death of their father, forced to leave their family home and live in a simpler way in the countryside. While in their new society, they meet several suitors (played by Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Greg Wise) – both proper and improper – and fall in love.
North & South
If your heart didn’t skip a beat whenever you saw Richard Armitage already, then it will after seeing him play the gruff mill owner John Thornton in this BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s industrial revolution-set novel, North and South. A classic tale of opposites attracting, it sees genteel Southerner Margaret Hale transported to the North, amidst the rise of the factories and the fight for workers rights. As the cotton mill workforce strikes, she’s torn between her growing feelings for Mr Thornton and her pity for the poor he seemingly looks down upon.
Pride and Prejudice
The six-part BBC version of Pride and Prejudice endures as the most popular adaptation of Austen’s famous tale. From Colin Firth’s blush-inducing wet shirt moment, to Jennifer Ehle’s impeccable put downs and side eye, for many, Firth and Ehle are the quintessential Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett (sorry Keira). Featuring glorious sets, lush costumes and plenty of humor, it’s a feel-good boxset binge for the whole family.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Banned upon publication, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover tells the story of a passionate tryst between the classes. Netflix has the most recent adaptation, a three-parter starring the very easy-on-the-eye duo of Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden, who play Lady Chatterley and her game-keeper, Mellors, who come together after her husband returns from World War I disabled.
On Chesil Beach
As with all of Ian McEwan’s novels, On Chesil Beach explores the devastating and life-long impact of a moment of misunderstanding. Set in the 1960s, it sees Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan starring as a shy, newly-married couple, unable to communicate on their wedding night due to a secret she is keeping from him. Breathtaking and soul-destroying, it’s a masterpiece.
Talented duo Andrew Davies and Tom Hooper turned their attention to adapting George Eliot’s final novel Daniel Deronda in the early 2000s, with Hugh Dancy in the titular role and Romola Garai as his love interest. Controversial at the time, the Victorian era plot sees Dancy immersed in the Jewish community, meeting Zionist thinkers, who Eliot appears to be sympathetic towards. Meanwhile Garai’s character Gwendolen struggles to find happiness after becoming involved with a cruel, wealthy older man, aptly named Mr Grandcourt, in order to be financially secure.
Originally published in Tatler.com