Is Obsession based on a book? The plot of the sexy new Netflix show explained

Missing the likes of You and Sex/Life? Here’s your latest Obsession…

Is Obsession based on a book?
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix’s newest hit series, Obsession, is certainly living up to its name, but what is this book based on, and is it based on a true story?

After the news that Sex/Life won’t be coming back for a third season, Obsession came just in time to give viewers a bit of raunch, a bit of risk, and a whole load of Richard Armitage. Written by Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm, Obsession focuses on a forbidden affair between top surgeon William (The Stranger's Richard Armitage) and his son’s fiancée Anna (Happy Valley’s Charlie Murphy). But what inspired this raunchy show? Here's what you need to know...

Is Obsession on Netflix based on a true story?

The steamy drama isn’t based on a true story, but it is based on a book. The series is based on Josephine Hart’s 1991 novel Damage. There are key differences between the book and the TV show, such as William's job changing from being a politician to a surgeon, and his name changing from Stephen Fleming in the book to William Farrow in the show. However, the show maintains the same focal plot which focuses on a father's affair with his soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

Netflix wasn’t the first to adapt the novel into a cinematic romp. Damage was previously adapted into a 1992 film starring Jeremy Irons (House of Gucci) and Juliette Binoche (Chocolat).


(Image credit: Netflix)

Damage, by Josephine Hart, Kindle Edition (£3.99) $10.99 | Amazon

Damage, by Josephine Hart, Kindle Edition (£3.99) $10.99 | Amazon

This New York Times bestselling novel, now in a brand-new edition, is a daring look at the dangers of obsession and the depth of its shattering consequences. Damage is the gripping story of a man’s desperate obsession and scandalous love affair. He is a man who appears to have everything: wealth, a beautiful wife and children, and a prestigious political career in Parliament. But his life lacks passion, and his aching emptiness drives him to an all-consuming, and ultimately catastrophic, relationship with his son’s fiancée. 

Obsession takes the novel in a new direction from the book, however. An intentional choice to focus more on the female character’s perspective.

In an interview with Stylist magazine, the show’s writer Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm explained, "I loved the book… but it was written entirely from a man’s point of view. Anna, his lover, is portrayed as a kind of vamp who comes into the family, blows everything up and then disappears. Her primary function is to serve the purpose of what the male lead needs."

"I said, ‘If I’m going to do this, I want to make sure I dig into Anna and why she behaves in the way she does.’ I wanted to try and understand the characters in the story – and especially Anna – in a way that wasn’t just two-dimensional," Morgan said.

Morgan and intimacy coordinator, Adelaide Waldrop also agreed that the sex scenes should also be focused on a female gaze and not from a male perspective.

"It was about portraying the sex in a way that makes us realize the connection and the obsession without becoming voyeuristic. We wanted an equality in terms of who we’re looking at, too, and who’s having to expose themselves. It isn’t about women bearing themselves and men keeping their clothes on. In fact, during this couple’s first sexual encounter, the reverse is true. But, often in the past, there’s been a real imbalance here." 


(Image credit: Netflix)

Will there be a second season of Obsession?

Obsession has been billed as a standalone, limited mini-series made up of four hour-long episodes. All four episodes are streaming now, exclusively on Netflix. Because of the source material, a second season is unlikely. 

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.