12 thoughts on “Top 5 (Modern) Historical Fiction Adaptations

  1. The one series I really want to see done is Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicle, which consists of six novels about a 16th-century Border lord who goes from Scotland to France to the Middle East to Russia and back for the love of a young Englishwoman. Neither Francis Crawford nor Phillipa Sommerville are run-of-the-mill, being ferociously bright, independent, and sharing a love of music. In the process of all this there is plenty of action, drama, violence, sex, and a panorama of historical characters that send one back to the history books. Featured characters include Ivan the Terrible, the Knights Hospitaller, Roxalana Sultan, and Nicolas de Nicolay.

  2. And here’s where I disagree with Kendra about the Other Boleyn Girl, at least in the adaptions — I also really liked the book & read it several times, but I thought Natalie Portman made for an excellent Anne in the 2008 movie, capturing the desperate ‘I’m dancing as fast as I can’ feel that Gregory gave her. The other movie felt flat (tho’ yeah, Mary wasn’t as dopey as ScarJo).

    Also, I have reservations about the screen version of Tipping the Velvet. It’s decent but it feels lightweight, more of a rom-com than the book. There were more emotional ups & downs in the book that felt glossed over in the BBC version.

    Yeah, I’m a nitpicky reader!

  3. Lymond! Yessssss.
    And I Capture the Castle has been one of my very fave books since HS.In fact, it may be time for a reread.
    Sounds like I’ll have to try Tipping the Velvet, both book and screen.

  4. Thanks for these recommendations. I added Tipping the Velvet and The Crimson Petal and the White to my Netflix list. I’m probably going to order I Capture the Castle for my Kindle. This blog is a treasure-trove of wonderful suggestions. I’ve just been indulging in adaptation/book viewing/reading of Jane Austen novels. Love Outlander!

  5. I read the Lymond saga when I unwisely decided to read upon recommendation of a friend while in law school (all of which might account for why I know a lot of Scottish aristocratic politics but not a lot about say contracts). I love love love them they are bit too much to take all one time as collective reread but I try to read at one or two each year. The lead still makes me swoon and I wish I had Phillipa as my BFF. In any event, I would eat a kitten for a high class well done BBC production. I really want Judi Dench as Sybilla

    1. Dme Judi as Sybilla? Sounds good. I think casting may have been the sticking point for this series. Francis is really difficult because as described, he’s almost effeminately good-looking (a particular point when Marthe, his illegitimate sister, is introduced — they have essentially the same face). My ex had suggested someone like David Bowie, who would now be way too old. Also, Francis is just out of his teens at the beginning, which would require a young actor to carry a huge load. Also, Francis often seems anti-heroic as he does things for his own reasons; eventually, they come out right, but this leaves room for much misunderstanding. Maybe he’s just too complex for film/TV.

  6. I get the impression that all of these are romances … is that right? I hate romance as a genre. It is fine as a plot device or a sub-plot, but I can’t see building a whole plot around it. So, can we have one of these historical adaptation recommendation lists that *isn’t* romance-centric?

    1. Hmmm. I wouldn’t say they are ALL romances, as in “the romance is the overall point of the thing and everything else is secondary.” In fact, Outlander is probably the only one where the romance is the main thread. In the rest, yes, romance is there, but that’s not what the story is really ABOUT.

    2. I’ve read all of these books and I wouldn’t classify any of them as what would be described as “romance” as a genre except maybe Outlander. I actually adore modern historical romance novels so I’ve read a lot of those and have a basis for comparison. The books in this list have strong romantic themes, which are closely built around the central characters, but don’t necessarily have the characteristic will they-or-won’t they and happily-ever-after that sort of defines the “romance” genre. In particular the Crimson Petal and the White was not very romantic in the conventional sense but it has definitely stuck with me.

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