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Critically acclaimed author adapts her 19th century mystery for TV

BBC Two is adapting the 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries, written by novelist Eleanor Catton.

The six-part drama from Working Title Television, tells a 19th century tale of adventure and mystery set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush.

The story follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life. There she meets the radiant Emery Staines, an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain. As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?

The story begins in 1865 in a wild landscape, where fortunes are made, lives easily lost, and justice is rough and ready. Luminous Anna must survive this dangerous world, where shipwreck and murder, blackmail and betrayal, greed, gold and false imprisonment all conspire to keep her apart from Emery.

Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, writer Eleanor Catton, says: “I feel absurdly lucky to be working with both the BBC and Working Title, whose work I have loved and learned from all my life. Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument: the melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different. I’m having enormous fun, learning every day, and just so excited to see the world of the novel created in the flesh.”

Andrew Woodhead, Managing Director of Working Title Television, says: “I was spellbound when I first read Ellie’s novel, so it’s a privilege to be making the television adaption with her for the BBC. The Luminaries is an incredible story, which will translate beautifully on screen; all of human life is here, in all its darkness and its light, set against this stunning New Zealand backdrop.”

Patrick Holland, BBC Two Channel Editor, says: “The Luminaries is one of the finest novels of recent years and Eleanor Catton’s own adaptation of her work is just as scintillating. It’s a work of startling originality told by an brilliant talent. I am very excited for our audience that this major new drama is coming to BBC Two.”

The Luminaries will begin filming in and around New Zealand in 2017.