Be on the lookout for our in-depth columns on All the Light We Cannot See, a Netflix limited series based on the Kirkus-starred and Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by Anthony Doerr (premiering Nov. 2), and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a theatrical film based on Suzanne Collins’ Kirkus-starred prequel to The Hunger Games (premiering Nov. 17). Here are four more book-to-screen adaptations coming in November:
Nov. 1: Black Cake (series premiere, Hulu)
In Charmaine Wilkerson’s 2022 bestseller, two estranged Southern Californian siblings, Benny and Byron Bennett, come together to listen to a tape made by their recently deceased mother, Eleanor, a Caribbean immigrant with a complicated past. It turns out that she has many secrets; for one, her name isn’t Eleanor, and she’s been on the run for years. Her story, and those of her children, are told in alternating “Then” and “Now” sections. (The book’s title refers to a traditional Caribbean dessert, which plays a key role in the story.) Our reviewer called the novel an “ambitious and accomplished debut,” although they took issue with what they called its “endless lingering inside the heads of characters recapping, reviewing, and agonizing over their predicaments.” Such interiority is less common onscreen that it is in literature, so this new streaming series may well go a different way. It was created and co-written by Women of the Movement’s Marissa Jo Cerar and executive-produced by Oprah Winfrey, and its trailer promises a sweeping, decades-spanning family saga. Its cast includes the excellent Mia Isaac as the matriarch in her younger years; she was a standout in the brilliant 2022 Hulu film Not Okay.
Nov. 3: Nyad (film premiere, Netflix)
Diana Nyad was 60 when she decided to begin training to swim more than 100 miles from Cuba to Florida in 2010. (She’d unsuccessfully tried once before in 1978, shortly before she retired from competitive swimming; she’d set multiple distance records in her 20s.) Starting in 2011, Nyad made the first of four attempts to cross the channel; she was 64 when she made her final attempt. Her 2015 book, Find a Way, highlights this effort in a remembrance that Kirkus’ reviewer called “inspiring reading for anyone who has ever dared to dream the impossible.” This new film adaptation, directed by Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), appears to follow a tried-and-true Rocky-style formula, and it’s one that will draw in sports-movie fans. It’s worth watching for its cast alone, which features Annette Bening as the fiercely determined Nyad and the great Jodie Foster as Nyad’s longtime friend, ex-lover, and coach, Bonnie Stoll.
Nov. 3: Rumble Through the Dark (theatrical film premiere)
Michael Farris Smith’s Kirkus-starred 2018 novel, The Fighter, presents a grim tale set in Clarksdale, Mississippi, that follows Jack Boucher, a former bare-knuckle boxer who, at age 50, is struggling with addiction and memory issues. His foster mother is about to lose her house, and he has gambling debts of his own. He manages to hit it big at a casino and hopes to pay what he owes to dangerous criminal Big Momma Sweet, but things quickly go awry—and soon, it looks the only way out is to get back in the ring. Kirkus’ review highlighted this tale’s “harsh realism that is both saddening and engaging”; the grittiness has clearly carried over to this movie version, for which Smith wrote the screenplay. (The title comes from an early passage in the novel: “Stay awake, he thought. Stay hot. Rumble through the dark with abandon.”) It was shot on location in Mississippi and features a notably talented cast, including Aaron Eckhart as Jack, Secrets & Lies’ Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Big Momma Sweet, and Bella Thorne as Annette, a carnival worker who may have a connection to Jack’s past. (The film will be available on video-on-demand beginning Nov. 10.)
Nov. 29: The Artful Dodger (series premiere, Hulu)
This new streaming series is set 15 years after the events of Charles Dickens’ classic 1838 novel Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress. Skilled London pickpocket Jack Dawkins, known as “the Artful Dodger,” was a child in that novel, and the leader of a gang of other young criminals, all trained by elderly crook Fagin. As this new series begins, Dawkins is an adult living in 1850s Australia who appears to have left his criminal past behind to become a surgeon. But when Fagin reappears in his life, he quickly finds himself drawn back into his old ways. This update, sure to intrigue Dickens fans, stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who was quite good in the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, as Dawkins; the always-reliable David Thewlis (I’m Thinking of Ending Things) as the unscrupulous Fagin; and Good Trouble’s Maia Mitchell as a brand-new character: Lady Belle Fox, an aspiring surgeon who’s also the governor’s daughter.
David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.