The BBC has adapted Norwich author’s book - and it’s on TV this weekend
PUBLISHED: 19:30 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:43 05 December 2019
The small screen adaptation of Emma Healey’s award-winning debut novel Elizabeth is Missing airs on BBC1 on Sunday, starring Glenda Jackson. Here’s all you need to know.
What is Elizabeth is Missing about?
Elizabeth is Missing tells the story of an elderly woman whose friend vanishes. Maud sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to her friend, while battling her own dementia, and discovers unsettling parallels with the disappearance of her sister, Sukey, half a century earlier. Emma Healey, the Norwich-based writer of the novel on which it is based, was inspired by seeing her grandmother, Nancy, live with dementia.
In an article for Alzheimer's Research UK, Emma explained: "When I began to write Elizabeth is Missing there wasn't so much fiction about dementia and I was looking for a way to explore the subject in a meaningful manner.
"To be honest, I wasn't really thinking of other readers at that moment, it was a selfish beginning. I just wanted better ways to guess what my grandmother and other members of my family were going through, how they might feel, what they might be thinking."
Who stars in it?
Acting legend Glenda Jackson returns to the small screen for the first time in decades to play the central protagonist, Maud. In an interview with the BBC she says: "Elizabeth Is Missing is about a subject that is of enormous importance. We, the human race, live longer and longer and there are always new illnesses coming to the fore. This story deals with a woman and her family who are going through the realisation of what Alzheimer's really is and how terrible it is. It was interesting to explore a life lost and how society has tried to maintain those people whose health is also severely damaged.
"When I first read the book and then the script, it sparked memories of when I was still a member of parliament and had to visit various day centres and old people's homes. I wouldn't say I am an expert in either Alzheimer's or dementia but I have seen people and families who suffer from it."
It also stars Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack and Bodyguard) as Sukey, Mark Stanley (Game of Thrones, Sanditon) as Frank and Neil Pendleton (River City) as Douglas.
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Who has adapted it for television?
The screenplay has been written by Andrea Gibb (Swallows and Amazons, Call the Midwife) and it is directed by Aisling Walsh (Room at the Top, Wallander).
Andrea got involved back in 2013, when she was sent the unpublished manuscript.
She said: "I had written about dementia before and my grandad had dementia, so I was very much personally involved in the whole subject. I read the book and I was just completely knocked out by it, it's a beautiful piece of writing. Emma, the author, wasn't very old when she wrote the book, and it was her first book. And yet she's got in the head of the character with this condition and has managed to make us understand what it must feel like to have it. So, I was drawn to it because of its emotional heart, because it was such an amazing character that you don't see on screen very often and because I felt it had something to say.
"Aisling was absolutely the only name that came up as director, we just knew she would be perfect for it. In tone, in sensibility, in attitude, in artistry and everything. So, she was approached and luckily for us, she said she wanted to do it. She suggested Glenda Jackson for Maud. From that moment on that's who Maud has been in our heads. Luckily for us, Aisling was able to go and meet Glenda and persuade her to do it and I think it's just been an extraordinary experience for all of us watching her create that character. Yes, she's an astonishing actress."
What else has Emma Healey written?
Elizabeth is Missing was Emma Healey's debut novel and was published by Penguin after a bidding war. It became a Sunday Times bestseller and won the Costa First Novel award. Emma studied creative writing at UEA. Her second novel, Whistle in the Dark, was published last year. A gripping mystery, it tells the story of a family whose daughter goes missing, only to return four days later, with no memory of what happened.
When is Elizabeth is Missing on TV?
It airs on BBC1 at 9pm this Sunday, December 8, and will also be available on iPlayer.
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