One of the biggest selling novels of recent years is The memory keeper’s daughter by Kim Edwards. It raced to the top of the bestseller list and became a staple of book groups worldwide. It has now been made into a film – featuring Emily Watson and Dermot Mulroney in the leads – but it won’t be coming to a theatre complex near you as it has been made into a television film as part of the Lifetime network.
Interestingly, Jodi Picoult may be one of the top writers of female fiction yet three adaptations of her novels have ended up as television movies (which usually means less well known actors and not the prestige and the publicity of a cinema release). Ditto for Sue Monk Kidd and her bestseller/book group favourite The mermaid chair – it became a television vehicle for Kim Basinger.
Five Nora Roberts titles also ended up as Lifetime Television movies and Rosamunde Pilcher may be a library and bookshop favourite but you will not have seen the majority of the many television films of her novels and short stories: this is because they were adapted for German television as co-productions of Germany and the U.K. and mostly filmed in Britain with second string English names alongside German actors. They have now mostly run out of material and have now turned to the novels of Mrs Pilcher’s son Robin.
Once upon a time these books would have ended up on the big screen and it is interesting to speculate on why they haven’t. Do women watch more television than men? Given that some of the top popular male authors – Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum – have ended up as big budget franchises on the big screen, it has been suggested that women will go along with a man to a film he wants to see but he will be reluctant to go along to something she particularly wants to see. It may be just that stories with a domestic focus might never be first choice for the bigger screen while stories that demand huge budgets, action, stunts, explosions and lots of noise may be more suited to a night a the multiplex.