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Based on an Untrue Story: Novel Television Adaptations on Demand

Susan Sinclair —

TVNZ is currently streaming some great adaptations of much-loved books.

 These are free to watch on the TVNZ OnDemand website.

The Luminaries (Eva Green, Marton Csokas) This epic drama adapted by Eleanor Catton based on her novel tells the 19th century tale of love, murder and revenge as men and women travel around the world to make their fortunes on the wild West Coast of New Zealand. The book was too long for me so I'm looking forward to watching this.

Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman) The thrilling, fast-paced modern-day reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes stories. Brilliantly cast and written and I'd watch anything featuring this dynamic acting duo.

Normal People (Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal) The intimate yet sweeping story of two Irish teens who embark on an on-again/off-again romance spanning several years that changes as they explore different versions of themselves. Based on the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney.

My Brilliant Friend (Margherita Mazzucco) A critically acclaimed series charting the volatile friendship of Elena Greco and her lifelong best friend Lila as they grow up in a poor neighbourhood in post-war Naples. Based on the books by Elena Ferrante; in Italian with English subtitles.

Cranford (Judi Dench, Jim Carter)
A comic drama following the lives of the people of Cranford, a small Cheshire town on the cusp of change in the 1840s. From Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. The cast is a dream team, including Imelda Staunton, Eileen Atkins, Julia MacKenzie, Barbara Flynn, Francesca Annis, Michael Gambon, Martin Shaw, Deborah Findley, Lesley Manville, Julia Sawalha, Greg Wise, Tom Hiddleston, Lesley Sharp... a who's who of British acting.

Jane Eyre (Ruth Wilson, Toby Stephens) A young governess falls in love with her brooding and complex employer. However his dark past may destroy their relationship forever. Based on Charlotte Bronte's 19th century classic. Toby Stephens is the son of acting royalty Maggie Smith, need I say more?

War & Peace (Lily James, James Norton) Leo Tolstoy's epic story of three young people whose lives change forever as Russia is drawn into war with France. A classic story of life, love and loss in 19th century Russia.

Wolf Hall (Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis) After the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, his secretary Thomas Cromwell finds himself among the treachery and intrigue of King Henry VIII's court and soon becomes a close advisor to the King, a role fraught with danger. Mark Rylance is one of the best actors in Britain. Acclaimed writer Hilary Mantel has just published her third novel in this series, The Mirror and the Light. You can read Colleen Marshall's  review of this novel in our May issue.

Sense & Sensibility (Hattie Morahan, Dominic Cooper) An adaptation of Jane Austen's novel about the lives and loves of the Dashwood sisters, who lose their privileged position in 18th century England when their father dies. Written by Andrew Davies, who also wrote the recent Sanditon series, as well as Les Miserables, War & Peace and countless other top-notch series.

The Musketeers (Luke Pasqualino) Set on the streets of 17th century Paris, this is a contemporary take on the classic French story by Alexandre Dumas about a group of highly trained soldiers and bodyguards assigned to protect King and country.

Catch-22 (Christopher Abbot, George Clooney)
A recent adaptation of Joseph Heller's cult satirical novel, first published in 1961, following Captain John Yossarian in World War II.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Gemma Arterton, Eddie Redmayne) Thomas Hardy's 19th century story of Tess Durbeyfield, a country girl whose family finds some noble connections. Visually stunning and emotionally compelling.

Great Expectations (Douglas Booth, Gillian Anderson) The Charles Dickens story of the orphan Pip who becomes a gentleman when his life is transformed by a mystery benefactor. 

Dickensian (Stephen Rea, Caroline Quentin) An imaginative mashup of several Dickens novels set in 19th century London. Perhaps not for the purists but highly entertaining.

Robin Hood (Jonas Armstrong, Richard Armitage) Returning from five years fighting in the crusades, Robin of Locksley and his manservant Much discover their beloved home is under the rule of the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham. Based on ancient English folk ballads, Robin Hood is a hero for the underdog. Swashbuckling and over the top hilarious.

The Little Drummer Girl (Florence Pugh, Michael Shannon) A thriller based on the John Le Carre novel which follows Charlie, a young fiery British actress who becomes entangled in a complex plot devised by a spy mastermind. Brilliant 1970s costumes, sets and a plot which intrigues and challenges.

The Secrets She Keeps (Laura Carmichael, Jessica De Gouw) In this gripping adaptation of Michael Rowbotham's best-selling novel, two very different women have a chance encounter at a supermarket in an affluent Sydney supermarket.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas)
A modern retelling of the classic fantasy comedy by William Shakespeare. Written by Russell T. Davies of Doctor Who fame, this is a highly original interpretation.

Noughts + Crosses (Masali Baduza) Set in an alternate world where the black Crosses rule over the white Noughts. Sephy and Callum are divided by colour, but united by love just as a powerful rebellion is mounting in the streets. Based on the Young Adult novels by Malorie Blackman, sci-fi fans should enjoy this series.