EXCLUSIVE: Christie Watson’s The Language of Kindness, a story of acts of compassion in the nursing profession, is to be turned into a television series after Mammoth Screen, the British production company behind dramas including Poldark and Victoria, optioned the rights. I understand the ITV-owned firm has set Rachel Bennette, who adapted Zadie Smith’s NW for BBC Two, to write.

The book, which comes out May 3 in the UK via publisher Chatto & Windus, is an account of the medical profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness from birth to death. Watson, who was a nurse for twenty years, tells stories including the nursing of a premature baby who has miraculously made it through the night, a patient’s agonizing heart-lung transplant, and the hair-washing of a child fatally injured in a fire, attempting to remove the toxic smell of smoke before the grieving family arrive.

The novel sparked a bidding war between 14 publishers in 2016, all keen to sign up Watson, who has worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and St Mary’s Hospitals and published novels including Tiny Sunbirds Far Away and Where Women Are Kings. It was described by its publisher as a “no-holds-barred look at a profession under enormous strain and one that can teach us what it is to be human.”

Mammoth Screen is now developing it for a television adaptation. Bennette, who was previously a script editor for BBC Films and Film Four, recently wrote on Channel 4 and Amazon’s Sony-produced Philip K. Dick adaptation Electric Dreams. She has also worked on BBC and Amazon drama Ripper Street as well as Lark Rise To Candleford.

The production company, run by Damien Timmer, is one of the hottest drama firms in the UK. Its David Morrissey-fronted adaptation of China Miéville’s The City & The City launches on BBC Two this week and it is currently making series including a remake of J.G. Farrell’s novel The Singapore Grip for ITV, Peter Bowker-penned WWII drama World on Fire for BBC One and adaptations of Vanity Fair and Pride & Prejudice for ITV.

The deal was brokered by Luke Speed of Curtis Brown Group on behalf of Sophie Lambert of C+W Agency.