Is Obsession Based On A Book? The Damage Plot Summary & Ending, Explained

Here’s what happens in Josephine Hart’s original novel.

Charlie Murphy & Richard Armitage in 'Obsession.' Photo via Netflix
Ana Blumenkron

In Netflix’s new limited series Obsession, Charlie Murphy and Richard Armitage star as Anna and her fiancé’s father, William, who embark upon a risky affair that shakes up their upper-class London existence, and the lives of their respective partners. As the title suggests, things get toxic pretty quickly.

Whether you’ve just finished the show or want to spoil yourself, you may be curious: is Obsession based on a book?

Indeed, the steamy series is Netflix’s latest book adaptation. However, the novel it’s based on is actually called Damage (an equally ominous name). Penned in 1991 by the late Josephine Hart, Damage is told from the perspective of the first-person narrator, a local doctor-turned-politician with a wife, Ingrid, and two children, Martyn and Sally. The man — let’s call him William for convenience since Hart didn’t name him — writes about his successful veneer of a life, describing himself as a “faithful, if not passionate, husband.” But that changes when he meets Anna, Martyn’s girlfriend.

William is immediately drawn to Anna, and they begin sleeping with each other in secret, eventually meeting in a flat William buys for that exact purpose. Anna shares personal elements of her life, including the traumatic story of her late brother, Aston. William doesn’t want Anna to get engaged to Martyn, but she says she craves his “normality” for herself. However, she promises that the affair won’t need to stop after she and Martyn are married. “You will have even more of me,” she tells William.

On the eve of her wedding to Martyn, William and Anna are together when Martyn comes looking for his fiancée — and finds the couple having sex at their secret apartment. He’s so shocked that he falls down the stairs and dies instantly.

After that, William’s family unravels as they learn about his affair. He resigns from his post, his wife remarries, and Anna leaves him. “I must take myself back from you,” she writes in a goodbye letter. “I was a fatal gift.”

In the final pages of the book, William sees Anna at an airport — she has a child with her ex, Peter, and they’re expecting another. The sight of her is enough to make him fall down and believe he’s going to die. But in the last sentences of his narration, he maintains that his relationship with Anna was a “love story.”

In a Netflix press release, Obsession co-writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm explained how the show takes a different approach to Hart’s story. “I loved the book, which is an amazing page-turning, erotic thriller, but it was written entirely from a man’s point of view,” she explained. “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.” Murphy also explained how this version of Anna “is completely in control” in an interview with The Guardian, which referred to the novel as “the original 50 Shades.”

“This is physically her world. She is the architect of every single rule,” Murphy told the outlet. “She is the dominant submissive, and the power she gives to him is a very cathartic experience for her.”

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