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The best books to read – then watch – this summer

Sigourney Weaver stars in Amazon Prime Video's adaptation of Holly Ringland's debut novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart
Sigourney Weaver stars in Amazon Prime Video's adaptation of Holly Ringland's debut novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart - Hugh Stewart/Amazon Studios

If movie stars turned up on TV, we used to be in cameo territory. Now they’re right at home, and the up-coming schedules prove it – they’re about to light up with A-listers normally found at the multiplexes: Sigourney Weaver as a flower farmer, Julianne Moore causing a royal rumpus, Brie Larson teaching the Sixties a thing or two about feminism and science. 

Plus you can catch Harvey Keitel, Mark Ruffalo and more. What’s persuaded them? These blockbuster books...which is why you should read them too.

Wolf

The Telegraph’s reviewer praised the “bravura savagery” of Mo Hayder’s crime series, featuring detective Jack Caffery. So don’t expect this BBC series, named after the final book in the seven-title sequence, to be a gentling dose of cosy crime. Starring Ukweli Roach (Humans, The Midwich Cuckoos) as DCI Caffery, it sees the gumshoe attempt to track down a neighbour who he believes murdered his own son. Lovely.

BBC One, due late July

Ukweli Roach in Wolf
Ukweli Roach in Wolf - Simon Ridgway/BBC

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Australian author Holly Ringland’s debut novel – a decade-spanning story of an orphaned girl taken on by her grandmother who lives on a flower farm – became a bestseller in 2019. Small wonder, then, that Amazon leapt on the rights. Now, it’s become the streamer’s big summer bet with Sigourney Weaver playing the grandmother, and a script by the team behind Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers. Expect lush sets, lavish twists, and a dash of hokum to set it all off.

Amazon Prime Video, August 4

The Chosen One

Netflix’s take on Mark Millar’s New Testamenty comic-book novel American Jesus transposes the action to Mexico and features a 12-year-old, Jodie, who discovers he’s the son of God. Tone-wise, the series seems to hit an intriguing note of thrillerish violence and adolescent yearning. For more grown-up yearning nabbed from comic books, catch series two of  Heartstopper on Netflix on Aug 3.

Netflix, August 16

Love & Death

Elisabeth Olsen as a church-going axe murderer? Yes please. Love & Death has sprung from the pages of the less snappily titled Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, Jim Atkinson and John Bloom’s meticulously researched investigation into why Dallas housewife Candy thwacked her best pal Betty, a fellow singer in the local choir. No prizes for guessing it was the fatal fait accompli after dark secrets explode to the surface.

ITV,  August or September

Lessons In Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus’s novel was one of the fictional delights of last year’s reading. A smart – but never clever-clever – romance, it told the story of a sharp-elbowed female scientist fighting for a place in a sexist 1960s research lab. That is, until she jacks it in and becomes a celebrity chef, as you do. Brie Larson is set to star in this souffle-light confection.

Apple TV+, October 13

All The Light We Cannot See

Depending on who you ask, Anthony Doerr’s ubiquitous Second World War novel was either a compulsive thriller with a deep emotional core – or a teetering heap of sententious tosh. Regardless, it’s a miracle an adaptation hasn’t been attempted until now, given how ripe his plot of Nazis, ham radios and precocious blind children is for the big screen. The calibre of the cast – Hugh Laurie, Mark Ruffalo – is a sign of Netflix’s confidence that it has a hit.

Netflix, November 2

Hugh Laurie in All the Light We Cannot See
Hugh Laurie in All the Light We Cannot See - Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

The Winter King

Bernard Cornwell’s books have already proved a rich vein of TV source material. His Saxon-set The Last Kingdom series did well on the BBC and latterly, Netflix, running to five seasons. Now ITVX is hoping to repeat that success, bringing Cornwell’s three-book retelling of Arthurian myths, The Warlord Chronicles, to the screen. Don’t expect sorcery and spangly armour, though – the tone of these tales is gritty, grounded and mud-splattered, with nary a Merlin in sight. Eddie Marsan stars as warlord Uther, with Iain De Caestecker as Arthur Pendragon.

ITVX, December

The Castaways

Lucy Clarke’s novel is beach-read 101 – a classic page-turner of a thriller soaked in tropical gorgeousness. When Lori boards a flight to a Fijian island, her sister Erin’s world does a loop-the-loop: Lori’s plane never arrives at its destination, but there is no wreckage nor any survivors. There is, though, Lori’s credit card – which someone is using in a remote corner of paradise. What’s going on? Currently filming in Greece, Sheridan Smith learnt to swim for the TV adaptation; she stars alongside Céline Buckens, who was nominated for an Emmy for Showtrial.

Paramount+, late 2023

Mary and George

It’s burdened with a title worthy of a 1970s drama, but don’t be put off by Sky Atlantic’s new series. Based on Benjamin Woolley’s historical sleuther The King’s Assassin, it dramatises a remarkable 17th-century crime: the poisoning of James I by his alleged lover, George Villiers. Was it accidental regicide – or a more outlandish plot? Julianne Moore plays Mary, George’s power-hungry mother; Tony Curran, last seen opposite Line of Duty’s Martin Compston in BBC two-parter Mayflies, plays the imperilled (and randy) king.

Sky Atlantic, late 2023


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