New OU/BBC series ‘The Secret Life of Books’

The Secret Life of Books, a new 6 part series, starts on BBC Four on Tuesday 2 September 2014 at 20:30. An OU/BBC production, the academic for the series was Professor Nicola Watson, and for the associated app Dr Jonathan Gibson

Presented by Simon Russell Beale, Bidisha, Alexandra Harris, Tony Jordan, Cerys Matthews and Dr Alice Roberts, the series covers the stories behind the authors of the following novels:

Episode 1 – Great Expectations, 2nd September
Episode 2 – The First Folio, 9th of September
Episode 3 – Mrs Dalloway, 16th September
Episode 4 – The Mabinogion, 23rd September
Episode 5 – Jane Eyre, 30th September
Episode 6 – Frankenstein , 2 November

These novels are just some of the classic works of fiction that we all know and love. But how well do we really know them?

We might remember Rochester and Jane’s sparky dialogue in Jane Eyre or the Frankenstein monster jerking to life in the classic black and white movies… But these rich and vibrant works have much more to offer us, and in this series our presenters will revisit original texts, manuscripts, diaries and correspondence to reveal new insights into some of the greatest works of literature.

In the opening episode of a new series about classic books, Tony Jordan, chief scriptwriter on EastEnders for 15 years and creator of Life on Mars and Hustle, brings his writer’s insight to a popular classic – Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Dickens serialised his novels and, says Jordan, his brilliant characterisation and cliff-hangers make him a godfather to contemporary television writers: “He’s a populist, through and through. He wrote for a mass audience – and they adored him for it”

In this film, Tony Jordan investigates why Dickens decided to change the ending of Great Expectations and what this decision reveals about the writer and the man.

By examining original texts and manuscripts to piece together Dickens’ troubled life at the time, Jordan discovers how the author’s own personal story may have influenced whether his hero Pip would have a future with Estella.

To support the series The Open University working in partnership with the BBC has produced a free app which can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play. Links to these can be found on OpenLearn.
OpenLearn also has extensive content in connection with the programmes subject areas. For more information go to
(Please note that content may not be available before the date of broadcast).

See the BBC’s programme page at

About ouartsfaculty

The Arts Faculty of The Open University is a world leader in supported Open Learning, and one of the best institutions in the world for arts and humanities. You can follow us on Twitter @OUArtsFaculty and on Facebook.
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