I’ve just finished Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls and I am absolutely bereft.
Its such a lovely, lovely book. Nicholls has such a knack for writing about teenage angst and nostalgia. I just didn’t want it to end.
Nicholls is a writer whose light touch seems to glow with gold, whether in his novels or his scripts.
He published the novel, One Day in 2009, which he went onto adapt into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. He told the BBC that the book’s success made it very difficult to write after that. He was terrified he would never write anything as popular again.
But he’s kept very busy since then, writing the Booker longlisted Us and screenplays including the Bafta award-winning Patrick Melrose.
If you’re local you’ll have been enchanted by the 2015 film version of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, much of which was filmed at our own lovely Mapperton and on the Dorset coast.
Hardy is one of Nicholls’ favourite novelists. In an interview with creativescreenwriting.com, Nicholls says Hardy is wonderful at set pieces like the fire in the farmyard, the sheep falling off the cliff of the sheep being sick as their stomachs are blowing up.
‘These dramatic set pieces are wonderful, but his dialogue is sometimes a little bit verbose and stagey,’ Nicholls says.
‘I didn’t invent very much, but I have done some amount of paraphrasing just to make the dialogue feel a little more grounded and a little more natural. If you were to say the dialogue as written by Hardy it would seem very florid. Hardy is a wonderful novelist, but this is a very early novel and it has a kind of flamboyance that his late novels don’t have.’
Nicholls adapted five of Edward St Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novels dealing with death, addiction, marriage and parenthood for the television series Patrick Melrose, made for Sky Atlantic and starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
‘They were written one by one, and after each book, he thought that was the end of the story,’ Nicholls tells Variety Magazine.
Nicholls felt it was important to stick to the structure of the books, each of which presented as ‘a snapshot from the character’s life’ for the series, rather than to fill in the gaps of time between events to create a more ‘conventional family drama.
‘Whenever adapting a popular work, a portion of the audience comes with pre-existing expectations. ‘If you leave one [plot point] out, there’s a sense of being unfaithful to this sacred text,’ Nicholls says. What appealed to him as a screenwriter was that the St Aubyn novels are not hugely well known.
Nicholls has written his own scripts for most of his novels but doesn’t see himself writing a screenplay for Sweet Sorrow. He wants to leave that for someone else.
He tells the BBC: ‘I’m at the stage now where I’d love someone else to do it because adaptation involves a certain amount of violence… you really don’t want to take the kind of drastic action that’s required to make it work in a different medium.
‘You don’t necessarily have the objectivity. Often you’re drawing on your own memories and experiences and so you can’t see clearly enough to make the kind of cuts and changes that are required.’
You can see David Nicholls at BridLit on Saturday 9 November at 5pm at the Electric Palace..