It’s confirmed: A new adaptation of H.E. Bates’ novel, The Darling Buds of May, is in the works.

Sabrina Bartlett in Poldark, left, Catherine Zeta Jones in The Darling Buds of May, right

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Here’s what we know so far about “The Larkins,” including some cast announcements. News of further casting will be released soon by the British television network ITV, who is commissioning the series.

A new television adaptation of H.E. Bates’ 1958 novel The Darling Buds of May, “The Larkins,” written by acclaimed screenwriter Simon Nye (The Durrells in Corfu), aims to capture the warmth, optimism and escapism of the Larkin family for a modern generation.

The Darling Buds of May, by H.E. Bates, Penguin UK

Nye says that Bates’ short novels are “… hilarious and magical.” He and the team will be “expanding the Larkins’ world a little and can’t wait to immerse ourselves in this glorious countryside idyll.”

Set in the late 1950s, “The Larkins” is the story of a working-class family led by the golden-hearted wheeler dealer Pop Larkin and his wife Ma, together with their six children, including the beautiful Mariette. 

Sabrina Bartlett (Siena Rosso in Netflix’s period drama Bridgerton, Keren in Poldark) will take on the iconic role of Mariette Larkin opposite Tok Stephen (Grantchester) who stars as Cedric ‘Charley’ Charlton. Excited to be part of the series, Bartlett says the period drama is “the perfect dose of escapism we all need right now.” Stephen adds that he hopes they “can impress fans of the original novels with our version.”

They join Bradley Walsh (Coronation Street) and Joanna Scanlan (Girl with a Pearl Earring) who were recently announced as playing Pop & Ma Larkin in the new six-part comedy drama series. Walsh says that being part of the Larkin family will be “a hoot,” and Scanlan shared “What better comfort could there be from all we have endured this year than the rolling laughter and outsize hugs of Ma and Pop?”

Fiercely loyal to each other and their community, each Larkin family member has a strong work ethic, alongside a disinterest in authority.  

In the idyllic and beautiful Kent countryside, known as the Garden of England, The Larkins have a achieved a small patch of paradise where nothing is wasted and they enjoy life to the full. 

There’s an overwhelming sense of plenty in their lives and a lot of joy and raucous laughter, as Ma Larkin provides a seemingly endless supply of delicious, hearty meals. And no matter what time of day, The Larkins and their guests aren’t averse to enjoying the odd cocktail or two!  

The Larkins are fundamentally good-hearted people who are always happy to share what they have with others, despite the fact that what they have is sometimes obtained by unusual means!  In a rather mean-spirited way their good heartedness is not always shared by certain members of the local community.

From government officials and snobbish second homeowners to aggressive urban developers, The Larkins often deal with threats to their idyllic way of life – but they never take things lying down.

Alongside their weekly battles with authority and snobbish villagers, “The Larkins” will follow the love story between Mariette and village newcomer Cedric ‘Charley’ Charlton. Charley arrives in the village as an unworldly and officious accountant from the city, there to investigate the Larkins’ tax affairs. 

He is soon distracted by the beautiful Mariette, with whom he falls head over heels in love. However, he quickly discovers that he has a romantic rival in the form of the handsome and mysterious Tom Fisher. Mariette, on the other hand, may have plans of her own, which don’t involve men.

“The Larkins” would be a perfect fit for MASTERPIECE, so fingers crossed on that! 

The book and its sequels were last adapted 30 years ago as The Darling Buds of May and became one of ITV’s all time highest rated television comedy dramas winning critical acclaim and audience approval.

The Darling Buds of May, courtesy ITV

The popular – and charming – 1990s British period drama followed the Larkin family for three seasons over 20 episodes, and stars David Jason (A Touch of Frost) and Pam Ferris (Call the Midwife) as Pop and Ma Larkin, and Catherine Zeta Jones as their eldest daughter Mariette, in her breakout role.

Stay tuned for updates about the new adaptation, and other period drama news.

Author H. E. Bates was born in 1905 in Northamptonshire. He worked as a journalist and clerk on a local newspaper before publishing his first book, The Two Sisters, when he was twenty. In the next fifteen years he acquired a distinguished reputation for his stories about English country life. The Darling Buds of May (1958), the first of the popular Larkin family novels, was followed by A Breath of French Air (1959), When the Green Woods Laugh (1960), Oh! To Be in England (1963) and A Little of What You Fancy (1970). His books are available here

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