Patrick Melrose Novels to be Televised

The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn will be adapted for television in a 5 episode series. Each episode will be devoted to one of the five novels. The satirical humor of these novels is often compared to the work of Evelyn Waugh. Benedict Cumberbatch who recently played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC adaptation, will play the lead role of Patrick. According to an article in The Independent, the series is to be adapted by David Nicholls and co-produced by two cable channels–Showtime and Sky Atlantic. Shooting is expected to begin in late summer. There is a 2012 film adaptation of one of the novels, Mother’s Milk, but it was not particularly successful at securing distribution. It was reviewed in the Guardian. Here’s an excerpt:

Edward St Aubyn has co-written this movie adaptation of his Booker-shortlisted autobiographical novel Mother’s Milk, directed by Gerry Fox. The result looks a bit like television, though it isn’t bad: sparky, boisterous, cynical, a little self-conscious but more grownup and literate than most new British movies. … The humour is brittle, British and throwaway, but with a tang of real poison. There is a sharp cameo from Diana Quick, Patrick’s malicious mother-in-law.

UPDATE (9 March 2017): The Evening Standard has interviewed novelist David Nicholls who is adapting the Melrose novels for TV. Here is an excerpt:

“The books are very dark, with very adult themes that I could never write about in my own original work. They’re about damaged people, terrible cruelty, coming to terms with an appalling crime and an attempt to find some kind of peace and redemption.” …As a satire on the world of public schools, posh people and parties, the books are often compared to Evelyn Waugh. …“As a dramatist you have to resist the temptation to turn it into aristocrat-bashing.” There was also the delicate issue of how to depict the violent rape of the five-year-old Melrose by his own father. “Certain things you can’t do, moments that are moved off-screen, implied or referred to in retrospect. The focus is very much on the legacy rather than the crime itself,” says Nicholls, who sweetly emails me later to say he’s worrying about spoilers, especially as filming doesn’t start until the summer.

UPDATE 2 (12 March 2017): Today’s New York Times Book Review added this to the discussion in its “Open Book” column:

In The Times, Michiko Kakutani wrote about St. Aubyn’s “remarkable” series: “The books are written with an utterly idiosyncratic combination of emotional precision, crystalline observation and black humor, as if one of Evelyn Waugh’s wicked satires about British aristos had been mashed up with a searing memoir of abuse and addiction, and injected with Proustian meditations on the workings of memory and time.”

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