Picador's superlead Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce has been optioned for immediate television development by 42.
The book, publishing on 5th April, was originally won by Picador in a seven-way auction. Picador publisher Paul Baggaley said that when the company acquired rights, it could all see its potential to make "a perfect film or TV adaptation" and couldn't wait to see how 42 would bring its "magical dialogue and compelling period setting" to the screen.
Set in wartime London in 1941, Dear Mrs Bird centres on Emmeline Lake who, amid the falling bombs, dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent. However, instead she finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, a renowned agony aunt in the world of magazines. When it becomes apparent Mrs Bird won't answer letters from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted, in favour of those who feel their ankles are unsightly or have had trouble untangling a length of wool, Emmy decides to intervene by replying herself in secret.
A J Pearce's agent Jo Unwin said there had been "tons of interest" for an adaptation, but 42 had showed "fantastic creativity and dogged tenacity" which "could not be bettered".
Pearce added: "From our first meeting it was clear that 42 really understand the heart and soul of Dear Mrs Bird and the characters that mean so much to me. I know they will look after them all beautifully."
Eleanor Moran, head of television at 42, said the character of Emmy felt "utterly contemporary" and the team had been "beguiled and entertained in equal measure" by her journey. "As soon as we ‘met’ Emmy - the infectiously witty and empathetic lead of A J Pearce's sensational debut novel Dear Mrs Bird - we knew her story was perfect to play out on screen," she said.
42’s TV projects in production include "Jerusalem", a six-part post-war drama series commissioned by Channel 4, written by Bash Doran, currently shooting, and starring Emma Appleton, Michael Stuhlbarg and Keeley Hawes and "Watership Down", a 4 x 1 hour animated mini-series for BBC and Netflix, adapted from the book by Richard Adams, written by Tom Bidwell, starring James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, John Boyega, Sir Ben Kingsley, Daniel Kaluuya, Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman, which is in production, and due to TX later this year.