41 thoughts on “Top 5 (Modern) Historical Fiction Novels That Need Film Adaptations

  1. I don’t think Jude Morgan is a female pseudonym, Jude is a male name. (It’s sometimes short for Judah or Judas) As it the Beatles “Hey Jude”. Love the article despite being pedantic. and I definitely think Loungbourn would make a great movie.

  2. I would love to see adaptations of at least three Susan Howatch novels – “Penmarric” (at least a better version than the 1979 miniseries), “Cashelmara” and especially “The Wheel of Fortune”.

    1. Love the Howatch novels! I recommend “Green Darkness” by Anya Seton and “The King’s General” by Daphne du Maurier.

  3. Not historical (strictly), but definitely fiction…

    I’ve always loved Anno Dracula. It’d be a pain in the tuchus to get rights to all the characters that are still copyrighted, but if they ever made a film (or better, a miniseries) of that book? I’d be in vampire-goth-Victorian-pulp-pastiche Heaven.

    For a more historical fiction novel: Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. Also a vampire novel, but it sprang to mind fairly immediately, and it’s a pretty interesting take on the classic Dracula story.

    1. YES. Kostova’s novel is one I have spent the last several years all but shoving into people’s hands.
      Beautifully written, well plotted, and I love how much of the action/development is centered around academic research.
      I HIGHLY recommend it.

  4. Thanks for this. I like historical fiction but feel it’s seldom done right. Will probably try reading some of these. (And they sound like they have the potential to make even better movies.)

    I still remember being dazzled by Empress Eugénie’s dresses in a Metropolitan Museum exhibit many years ago.

    Can’t think of much to suggest, but maybe Dorothy Dunnett’s King Hereafter, about the Earl of Orkney? Proto-Scots without kilts? It would be easy to get wrong.

      1. The producers of Poldark have announced that they will be producing the Lymond Chronicles as a series. As far as we know casting has not begun. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified.

          1. OMG! Those are my favorite historical novels. I sure hope they’re done right. I’m sure we all have a vision of what Lymond looks like (and plenty of descriptions). I can hardly wait.

            1. The screenwriter has just started work on the pilot for Game of Kings (having finished Vanity Fair, also for Mammoth) so I think it’s a while off yet… but the books have just been republished in the UK in the meantime.

              Seconding Jude Morgan, that would be wonderful. Jude’s one of those “goes either way” names for me, I know both male and female Judes.

  5. I read – somewhere – that someone was filming “Longbourne.” Alas, imdb lists it as 2017 but with no other information other than a director. I really did enjoy that book.
    Just FYI!

  6. I’ m so with you on Merkle Riley- the other books I haven’t read.

    I’d love to see Tim Power’s The Stress of Her Regard. Vampires and real biographic details about Byron and Shelley. Kaari Utrios books, but she’s not translated to English. Isabel Allende.

  7. I have two favorites that would make pretty great movies. First, there’s The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard. That one is written from the (prickly, vexing) perspective of Herman Melville, as he meets and falls for Nathaniel Hawthorne. His new passion inspires him to rewrite his latest draft for a novel about the whaling life, now intended as a love letter dedicated to Hawthorne. That’s how Moby-Dick ends up with such an intense sense of longing for the unattainable. Beauregard captures all of the historical personalities perfectly, and he even includes Melville’s real, passionate letters to Hawthorne, seamlessly reverse-engineering Hawthorne’s side of the conversation (which no longer exists). Much of the novel takes place in Melville’s mind, so it could be really interesting to see how it would play out onscreen.
    My other favorite is The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. (I’m really into the literary history of 19th century Massachusetts!) This movie would be a little more on the action side. The novel takes place right after the Civil War ends. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is in the middle of his first writing project in years, having taken a hiatus after the untimely death of his wife in a horrifically traumatizing accident. Perhaps thinking of himself as Dante and his beloved Fanny as Beatrice, he and his friends are collaborating on the first American translation of The Divine Comedy. These friends, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (who struggles to reconnect with his war-torn son throughout the novel), James Russell Lowell, and James T. Fields, are shocked when a series of brutal murders take place in Boston, all instantly recognizable to the translation team as being inspired by the tortures of Dante’s Inferno. The connection to this particular work, which at this point is little-read in Boston, makes the translators prime suspects. Knowing that the killer is not among them, they become unlikely sleuths and team up with Nicholas Rey, Boston’s first black police officer, to solve the crimes.

  8. I would really love it if they made TV versions of my two favorite historical series, the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters and the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly.

    1. Gosh wouldn’t Amelia Peabody make fabulous Television!!! Action, humour, Egypt, romance, crime! If they could resist the urge to have her played by a beauty, of course!
      I am also a big fan of Tim Powers, and while The Anubis Gates would probably give me nightmares, The drawing of the Dark would be wonderful.

      1. They would be so wonderful! I could see Claudia Black as Amelia; she has a more distinctive look. I’ve always seen Anna-Louise Plowman as Nefret.

    2. Oh, yes, the Amelia Peabody books are wonderful. That would be so much fun. I met Barbara Mertz (Elizabeth Peters), who lived in the area, when I ran an SCA feast in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Richard II’s ascension to the English throne. She had written (under yet another pseudonym) “The Murders of Richard III.” She wanted to meet some Ricardians and we had a mutual friend. She was smart, witty, an hilarious. And I think Amelia Peabody was her alter ego.

      1. That’s so cool! She seems like a wonderful person, I was so sad to hear she had passed away. I picked up the last book recently but haven’t been able to finish it because I know there will never be any more :-(.

    3. For the past several years, I’ve played “cast the Benjamin January” series in my head. Currently my dream cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor as Ben, Thomas Jane as Shaw, Gabriel Byrne as Hannibal, Lynn Whitfield as Livia, Tamala Jones as Olympe, and Nicole Beharie as Rose.

      1. Alys, I was so intrigued by your casting choices that I had to go look up this book series. Looks like I will have a new literary obsession, lol! Those actors would make a electrifying ensemble. In particular, I would love to see Nicole Beharie on my screen on a regular basis again.

        1. I’m so glad to introduce you to this amazing series!

          There has to be a producer out there who could make a great TV series for a cable channel out of these books.

  9. Liza Dalby’s “The Tale of Murasaki” as I admire Murasaki Shikibu and enjoy Heian court wear.

    Karen Cushman’s “Catherine, Called Birdy” a book I have fond memories of.

    Anita Diamant’s “The Boston Girl,” which reads like the historical book I adored as a kid, but fleshed out for grown up readers.

  10. I would love to see any of Tracy Chevalier’s novels adapted, but especially Remarkable Creatures.

    Also the super fun historical/magical/fantasy Cecelia and Kate series by Patricia Wrede, beginning with Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot.

  11. For me, nobody does Regency better than Georgette Heyer. An amazing writer and Regency scholar – her stories are fantastic and always have great heroines. If you haven’t read her yet, start with Frederica!

    1. Yes! I was about to say just this. And speaking of historical fiction novels that need movies made, all of hers do! They have such funny, witty dialogues, and such hilarious characters. Frederica is one of my favorites, too. Also the Alastair trilogy, though 2/3 is set in slightly different periods. And the Grand Sophy! Okay just all Heyer’s books XD

  12. Since you already have Emma Donoghue on your list, wouldn’t you also add “The Sealed Letter” and especially “Slammerkin”? The latter one particularly is a frock book from that time!

  13. It’s not historical fiction per se, but honestly I would just love any of Gail Carriger’s books. They’re entertaining, funny, and a huge emphasis on wardrobe, so the budget would definitely have to stretch for fab ensembles.

  14. DUDES. I started reading this post and was thinking, “I’m gonna suggest The Oracle Glass in the comments! A film of that would rock!” But look, it’s right there in the post! I knew I liked y’all!

  15. I would definitely endorse the Amelia Peabody choice – am rereading the series currently. I loved everything that Barbara Mertz wrote, either as Barbara Michaels or Elizabeth Peters. Also a longtime Heyer fan – she writes so well! What about Kate Atkinson’s intersecting books Life After Life and A God Among Ruins? – so fantastic and an amazing sense of period. Another great author is Brenda Jagger – she wrote quite a few books around the industrial revolution with strong female protagonists – really well written and moving books to which I repeatedly return. Also two Ancient Roman ones – Antonia and Daughter of Aphrodite which would translate really well to the screen.

  16. Sharon Kay Penman’s “When Christ and His Saints Slept”, with Eva Green as Empress Maude, Tom Hiddleston as Henry II and Katie McGrath as Eleanor of Aquitaine. And C.W. Gortner’s “The last Queen” about Juana la Loca, and Julie Christie’s “Sisters of Versailles”, which deals with the 5 Nesle sisters, 5 of them were Louis XV’s mistresses. Pauline Gedge’s “The Eagle and the Raven”, about Caradoc and Boudicca’s fight against Rome, would be a great idea (this and “When Christ…” would be better for TV than cinema, they’re more complex).

    1. I’ve just come across this post, but I am intrigued by your casting.

      I’d love Penman’s ‘Welsh Trilogy’ to be adapted too – Ioan Gruffudd will forever be my casting for Llewellyn Fawr (casting Joanna, I’ve yet to manage so far….)

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