EXCLUSIVE: My Cousin Rachel director Roger Michel and producer Kevin Loader are teaming up under their Free Range Films banner on a feature adaptation of upcoming UK novel Little Darlings, which they have optioned from Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency.

Notting Hill director Michel will write and direct the feature adaptation, which is currently in development, while The Death Of Stalin and The Lady In The Van producer Loader will produce.

The debut novel, which was pre-empted in a “significant” six-figure deal by Harper Collins, spans the first five weeks following a traumatic childbirth. It will be published in spring 2019 in UK, US (Crooked Lane) and Canada (Harper Collins). Free Range secured the deal with Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn.

In Little Darlings, which is set in the UK city of Sheffield in the present day, Lauren’s hopes and dreams of being a new mum are shattered when she encounters a mother’s worst nightmare – someone is threatening to take her children if she leaves them alone. From the stark loneliness of returning home after birth, to the confines of a psychiatric unit, Lauren’s desperation increases as no one will listen to her. The book is loosely inspired by the ghostly folktale The Brewery Of Eggshells, where a mother becomes convinced her twins are not her own.

Writer and Director Roger Michell said of the book, “Exquisitely disturbing, this is Rosemary’s Babies with the added shock of utter plausibility. Every mother’s nightmare…doubled.”

Golding’s agent, Madeleine Milburn, added, “Melanie is a hugely talented debut author with a profound ability to grip and unsettle her readers. Combine this with the creative power that is Free Range Films, and I am in no doubt that the adaptation will be a tour de force. I couldn’t be happier, or more excited, for Melanie.” Golding is a recent graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, with distinction.

Free Range’s previous features include Venus, Hyde Park On Hudson, Enduring Love and Le Week-end. Loader is also well known for his TV work, most recently teaming up with Michel on Bafta-winning ITV mini-series The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies.

Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin starred in Fox Searchlight-backed 2017 movie My Cousin Rachel, an adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier book about a young Englishman who plots revenge against his late cousin’s mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death.