BBC1's new drama Normal People is that rare thing - a brilliant adaptation of a brilliant book

I approached Normal People (BBC1, Mondays, from 9pm) with some trepidation. I had read the Sally Rooney novel on which it is based, and loved it, and when you love a book, the general rule is that any adaptation will disappoint. I really needn’t have worried.

Friday, 1st May 2020, 3:45 pm

Normal People centres on Connell and Marianne, teenagers on the verge of leaving school in their small, west of Ireland hometown and heading out into the world.

Co-written by Rooney herself, these 12 half-hour episodes come under the banner of BBC3, the online-only youth arm of the Beeb, but this story should not be confined to the youngsters.

The themes it touches on, as Marianne and Connell weave through each others’ lives, moving together and drifting apart through university, are universal. It’s about falling in love, working out what you want to be in life – and who you want to be.

Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) in Normal People. Picture: BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu

It’s about wanting to get out of hidebound provincial life, where you think you are one person, but as soon as you leave you discover you’re someone else entirely.

When Connell sees Marianne in cosmopolitan Dublin, for the first time since leaving school, Marianne asks him: “Finding it hard to meet people here?”

“Mm-hm, bit different from home I suppose.”

“Probably why I’m good at it.”

The two young leads, Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, and Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson have created a remarkable, intimate portrait of a relationship, where a look means as much as a word and there’s a world of meaning in a touch.

In a locked down world, intimacy – physical, mental, spiritual is rare – and Normal People reminds you what a precious commodity it is.

The second series of Blood (Channel 5, Mon-Fri, 9pm) has kept up the high standards of the first. A family drama told through a fractured timeline it’s gripping stuff, and deserves to find a wider audience.

The Last Kingdom (Netflix) following Uhtred, son of Uhtred, through Anglo-Saxon Wessex has lost a little dramatic heft, with contrived coincidence and soapy plotlines, but it’s still a lot of fun.