This year is a veritable treat for readers who love to see books adapted for the big and small screens.

Here, we pick some of our most anticipated book adaptations, coming in 2021. 

The Dig, based on The Dig by John Preston

Set in the summer of 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, John Preston’s The Dig is about a widowed farmer who discovers buried treasure on her land. As an archaeological dig to uncover the treasure proceeds against a background of mounting anxiety, it’s soon clear that this is no ordinary dig.

Preston’s novel is based on the Sutton Hoo dig, the greatest Anglo-Saxon discovery ever made in Britain.

The film adaptation, on Netflix from 29 January, stars Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James. 

Cherry, based on Cherry by Nico Walker

Nico Walker was a medic who served on more than 250 missions in Iraq. After leaving the military, he suffered from undiagnosed PTSD, became addicted to heroin, and began to rob banks. Cherry, his debut novel, is semi-autobiographical, and was written and published while Walker was serving an 11-year sentence in prison.

Cherry tells the story of a young couple who, desperate to keep their relationship alive, marry just before he ships out to Iraq. When he returns, his PTSD is profound, and both he and Emily are caught up in the opioid crisis engulfing the American Midwest. Hooked on heroin, the young man turns to bank robbery to make money.

Cherry, out on 12 March on Apple TV+, has been adapted with Spider-Man actor Tom Holland in the lead role, and is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who have directed a number of Marvel films. 

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, inspired by Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books

Everyone’s favourite troublemaking rabbit returns in his second film this year. The film follows Bea (Rose Byrne), Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) and the rabbits, who have now settled down as a family. But Peter (James Corden) still isn’t satisfied, and heads out into the world, where his mischief is appreciated. But when his family comes searching for him, risking everything, Peter has to figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be.

Although the film, out later this year, departs from Beatrix Potter’s original series, it still retains the cheekiness and fun of one of the most iconic children’s characters in literature.

The Last Duel, based on The Last Duel by Eric Jager

Superstar director Ridley Scott, behind films including Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, takes the helm for the adaptation of Eric Jager’s The Last Duel, which stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. And if that wasn’t enough star power, the film adaptation is written by Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener.

Jager’s book is set in 1386, a few days after Christmas, as a massive crowd gathers at a Paris monastery to watch a trial by combat. Throughout The Last Duel, Jager unfold the story of a knight, a squire and a lady during the tumultuous 14th Century. 

The Last Duel is based on the true story of the last officially recognised judicial duel fought in France.

The Last Duel will be released in autumn 2021. 

The Power of the Dog, based on The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

The Power of the Dog is a poetic book about Phil and George, bachelor brothers and joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. The bachelors, who have shared the same room for 40 years, are opposites in every way: George is a gentle soul, while Phil is a vicious sadist.

When George unexpectedly marries a young widow and brings her to live at the ranch, Phil begins a a relentless campaign to destroy his brother’s new wife.

The adaptation of Savage’s novel is written and directed by Jane Campion, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, and will be released on Netflix later this year. 

Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen’s Passing is one of the seminal novels of America’s Harlem Renaissance, and follows two childhood friends who reunite as grown-ups. One, Clare Kendry, has severed all ties to her past and is living as a white woman, her husband unaware of her African-American heritage. As Clare and her former friend Irene reunite, both are forced to reassess their marriages, the lies they have told and the secrets they have buried.

Passing was first published in 1929. The film adaptation stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, and will premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.  

Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s 1950 novel Across the River and Into the Trees follows American colonel Richard Cantrell, who is living in Venice just after the Second World War. Middle-aged and embittered, the only thing that can save him is the love of Renata, a 19-year-old countess. Living in the shadow of the war, though, peace may come too late for Cantrell.

The film adaptation stars Liev Schreiber and Josh Hutcherson.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers follows a group of people who go on an exclusive retreat, cut off from the rest of the world. The retreat and its icy owner promise to change their lives within 10 days, but it soon becomes clear there’s something sinister going on.

Moriarty’s Big Little Lies has already been turned into a hit TV show, starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Kidman is executive producing Nine Perfect Strangers, as well as taking the role of retreat leader Masha. The series is currently filming in Australia, with a cast including Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans and Michael Shannon. 

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis is the second book by Andy Weir to be adapted for the big screen, after 2015’s The Martian. Weir’s novel follows Jazz Bashara, a criminal who lives on Artemis, the first city on the moon. Jazz subsidises her work as a porter with smuggling contraband on the moon, but it’s not enough. So when she’s offered the chance to make a lot of money, she jumps at it, even though it will put her into danger.

There’s not much news on the adaptation yet, but it could be released in 2021. 

Image: Ryan MacEachern / Penguin.

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