From Page to Screen: Normal People & Other A+ Adaptations

These five literary adaptations are perfect for book lovers, and are all available to stream for free on the CBC Gem app

The series adaptation of Sally Rooney’s popular novel has debuted on CBC Gem

When the series-adaptation of the popular book Normal People debuted in both the U.K. and the U.S. in April, Canadian fans couldn't help but feel left out. Today, that changed—the series debuted on Gem, where you can watch it free. In honour of the launch, here are five great page-to-screen adaptations for book lovers to watch. 

Normal People

CBC Gem will stream Normal People, which stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, beginning May 27, 2020. (CBC)

Normal People, which debuted in Canada on May 27, is a coming-of-age story set in Ireland in the post-2008 economic downturn. The story follows the relationship between Marianne and Connell, as their social statuses and feelings toward one another shift over time. When the novel debuted in 2018, author Sally Rooney was praised as "the first great Millennial writer"

The TV series captures the beauty, intimacy, and moodiness of the novel. Watch Normal People on CBC Gem.



If you read and liked Normal People, you might also like Brooklyn—another Irish love story, this time set in the 1950s. The 2009 novel by Colm Tóibín tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young woman who immigrates from Ireland to New York in search of a better life. As Eilis settles into her new home in Brooklyn she becomes torn between two loves, and two homes.

In 2015, a film adaptation of the award-winning book was released, starring Saoirse Ronan. Watch Brooklyn on CBC Gem (and keep a box of tissues handy). 

Alias Grace


Fans of the TV series adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale will be thrilled to know that there's another Atwood adaptation out there. Her 1996 historical fiction novel, Alias Grace, was adapted into a miniseries by Sarah Polley in 2017. 

Alias Grace tells a fictional story based on the real 1834 murders of a wealthy farmer and his housekeeper. Grace Marks, a servant in the household, is one of two people convicted of the murders. The novel, and miniseries, follow the mystery of Grace and her lost memory of the crime. You can catch the gripping series anytime on Gem—get ready to binge-watch this one.

Little Women


Little Women is one of those works that can be adapted again and again, always with a fresh perspective. It's been adapted to film alone seven times, from a silent film in 1917 to Greta Gerwig's recent take on it in 2019. 

The story has also been adapted for stage and small screen. The version of Little Women available for free on CBC Gem is the BBC's 2017 three-part miniseries adaptation. The series stars British greats like Emily Watson as Marmee, Michael Gambon as Mr. Laurence, and Angela Lansbury as Aunt March. If you're looking for something cozy and familiar, this is it.

Anne with an E


This list wouldn't be complete without a mention of everyone's favourite redhead. Anne Shirley has been a beloved character since P.E.I. author Lucy Maud Montgomery published Anne of Green Gables in 1908. Like Little Women, it's a timeless story that has been adapted countless times in film, TV, radio, animation, and stage. In 2017, the joint CBC-Netflix production of Anne with an E debuted and became an instant classic. 

The show took a more nuanced approach to its retelling, including storylines beyond the usual white characters. In a point of view dissecting the 2019 film Little Women, columnist Amanda Parris pointed out how Anne with an E achieved a more modern retelling of an old story by including Black, gender fluid, and Indigenous experiences.

In Anne with an E, showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett boldly explores aspects of Anne's character and world in a way the book never did.- Amanda Parris

You can find all three seasons of Anne with an E on CBC Gem.