Apple TV+’s period drama series, ‘The Buccaneers,’ transports the audience to the late 19th century, focusing on the story of five girls whose lives are changed forever when they go to London and enter society. Each of them wants to find a perfect husband for themselves, but soon, they discover that their dreams and expectations might not be as realistic as they expected. Eventually, they have to face reality and make do with what they’ve got, and no one does it better than Nan St. George.
While the rest of her group is busy worrying and fretting over marriage and whatnot, Nan has comparatively smoother sailing, though things take a tumble for her, too, every now and then. Due to the way she’s written and receiving the most focus, one might wonder if she has any connection with reality.
Nan St. George is Based on the Young Women of The Gilded Age
‘The Buccaneers’ is based on the book of the same name by Edith Wharton. This was Wharton’s last book and was left unfinished due to her death. It was first published in its unfinished form and was later completed by Marion Mainwaring, using the outline left by Wharton. The show has been adapted for the screen by Katherine Jakeways, who added a modern touch to the storytelling even though the story is set in the 19th century.
All the characters in the story, including Annabel “Nan” St. George, are fictional. They were crafted from the imagination of Wharton, who is known to have looked towards the people in her life to create characters for her stories. It is believed that there might be some similarities between Nan and Wharton herself, who had a similar background. The author was a young girl around the Gilded Age and entered society, getting a glimpse into the challenges and expectations levied on young girls whose only motive in life was chalked out to be marriage.
Wharton herself is said to have been on the fringes during debutante season and had a tumultuous romantic life, a reflection of which appears in her characters, especially in the five protagonists of ‘The Buccaneers.’ She had a bird’s eye view into the workings of the upper class and how “new money” people tried different ways to get into it. She worked all of that into the story of Nan and her group. Considering all this, it is fair to assume that she either based Nan on herself, at least partially or on some other girl she knew around that time.
However Wharton may have written Nan in the books, the character receives a makeover in the Apple TV+ series, though the show’s creators have stuck to the roots of the character as described in the source material. Talking about how much change went into the characters and their storylines, Jakeways revealed that they expanded upon several aspects that went unacknowledged in the book. The writers also added new characters and new scenarios for the protagonists, making the show a mix of the plot lines from the novel and ones that were invented in the show’s writers’ room.
The basic storyline for Nan in the show is quite similar to what happens in the books. However, the way things unfold for her, how it reflects her character, and the impact it has on her future is done a little differently. The divergence gave the writers the space to explore Nan’s motivations and intentions in a new light and also to paint her well on the screen, in a somewhat similar frame as Wharton did in the novel.
Jakeways revealed that one of the most important things in the creation of this series was to make it feel as relatable as possible to the modern audience. Despite it being set in the 19th century, the creators wanted Nan and the other girls to feel real. The same goes for other characters, especially the men, who have also received makeovers to make them more sympathetic or hatable, depending on their role in the story. With all this in mind, it is clear that when Wharton wrote the novel and when the writers wrote the show, the main concern was to make the fictional Nan feel genuine so her story would ring true for the audience.