A few Persephone Books’ titles have made the leap from page to screen.
Today, I’m sharing the three adaptations that I’ve watched, along with two other adaptations that are on my radar.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
Based on the novel Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace
IMDB Synopsis: “Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle-aged London governess, finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse.”
The film version of Miss Pettigrew Lived for a Day is every bit as delightful as the book. This cinderella story was practically made to be adapted to the screen. The entire cast is phenomenal, so much so that I can no longer imagine anyone else playing these parts. Every scene drips with wit and charm.
The costumes and sets are also impeccable; the late 1930’s setting is vividly brought to life. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day manages to capture a perfect balance of optimism and anxiety over the approaching war. There are moments of levity and humour as well as moments of stark reality. In this respect, it is even more compelling than the novel.
Photo Credits: Focus Features
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (2012)
Based on the novella Cheerful Weather for a Wedding by Julia Strachey
Starring: Felicity Jones, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth McGovern, James Norton
IMDB Synopsis: “A young woman frets upstairs in her family’s country manor on her wedding day, fearful she’s about to marry the wrong man. Downstairs, both her fiancé and her former lover grow increasingly anxious.”
This adaptation is a lovely way to spend an hour and a half. The film retains the play-like feel of Strachey’s novella. It’s a charming comedy of manners with an outstanding cast. Although not a lot happens, the stripped back plot really allows the actors to shine. The cinematography often steals the show as well, as there are plenty of interesting and stunning shots.
There is a full cast of characters, fast-paced dialogue, and lots of little details to keep your attention. Because of this, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is especially great on repeat viewings. A small warning however: the ending is not perfectly wrapped up and we are left to draw our own conclusions.
Photo Credits: IFC Films
The Making of a Lady (2012)
Based on the novel The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Starring: Lydia Wilson, Joanna Lumley, James D’Arcy, Linus Roache
IMDB Synopsis: “After losing her employment, Emily accepts a proposal that will give her a secure future. But she soon finds trapped in her new family’s deception.”
Photo Credits: ITV
In my opinion, this is the weakest adaptation of the three. I can recognize elements from The Making of a Marchioness, but it’s almost as if the best parts of the novel have gotten lost in translation. The acting performances are solid but the dialogue is a bit sub par and the pacing is unbalanced. The first half is much more promising than the second half.
This version amps up the melodrama and the sensational elements of the novel. It is by no means a flawless film, but it is relatively entertaining. Personally, it’s not one I will be re -watching however. I’d much rather reread Frances Hodgson Burnett’s original.
Photo Credits: ITV
They Knew Mr. Knight (1946)
Based on the novel They Knew Mr. Knight by Dorothy Whipple
Starring Mervyn Johns, Nora Swineburne, Joyce Howard
IMDB Synopsis: “A random accident brings struggling businessman Thomas Blake into contact with Mr Knight, a successful financier. Knight encourages him to take risks with his money and his honour, and Blake discovers that all that glitters is not gold.”
Dorothy Whipple’s novels all seem like they would make wonderful, compelling adaptations. However, They Knew Mr. Knight failed to make a profit on its theatrical release, and doesn’t appear to have been very well-received. Perhaps we can cross our fingers for future adaptations of Whipple’s work instead.
Little Boy Lost (1953)
Based on the novel Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski
Starring: Bing Crosby, Claude Dauphin, Christian Fourcade
IMDB Synopsis: “A war correspondent who was stationed in Paris during WW II married a French girl who was murdered by the Nazis. After the war he returns to to try to find his son, whom he lost during a bombing raid but has been told is living in an orphanage in Paris.”
This sounds like a terrible misreading of Marghanita Laski’s beautiful, emotionally complex novel. According to the afterward in the Persephone edition- written by Anne Sebba- Laski was “furious and hurt” that her novel was turned into a musical starring Bing Crosby. If you’ve seen this, let me know. Maybe it’s not as dreadful as it sounds, but I don’t have high hopes.
Have you seen any of these adaptations? Are there other Persephone adaptations I’ve missed?