The effect of reading this sharply intelligent and allusive examination of the process of adapting the English literary canon for television is truly exhilarating. Sarah Cardwell has produced a study which is fecund with remarkable ideas and insights, but which also opens up a prodigious series of topics for discussion. The reader’s mind will be firing on all cylinders after the most passing acquaintance with the rich and stimulating aperçus thrown out so consistently here, in which notions of adaptation and authorship are scrupulously examined.

The final effect of the book is to make the reader seek out such television triumphs as Brideshead Revisited and Pride and Prejudice (the latter adapted by Andrew Davies, subject of another of Cardwell’s books), with this illuminating book clasped tightly under one’s arm.

Barry Forshaw’s books include British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, Italian Cinema and The Man Who Left Too Soon, a biography of Stieg Larsson. He is currently preparing for Macmillan studies of British crime film and Scandinavian crime fiction. He edits Crime Time.