Monday, January 14, 2008

Lark Rise to Candleford#2

Oh dear! Whoever asked Bill Gallagher to adapt Flora Thomson's Lark Rise to Candleford for the BBC forgot to tell him to read the trilogy first. I watched the first episode, screened last night but, apart from a few names, there was nothing bearing any resemblance to the book I love so much. We had been warned that characters and events had been 'extended' for the sake of dramatic effect, but 'invented' would have been a more accurate description.

Lark Rise to Candleford is a detailed account of country life in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, seen through the affectionate but honest eye of a close observer. Every aspect of life is dealt with. She describes 'THE BOX' which every farm labourer's wife sent to the Rectory for, when a new baby was born. "It contained half a dozen of everything - tiny shirts, swathes, long flannel barrows, nighties, and napkins, made, kept in repair, and lent for every confinement by the clergyman's daughter. In addition to the loaned clothes, it would contain, as a gift, packets of tea and sugar and a tin of patent groats for making gruel." The contents of the Box could be kept for a month, until the baby could be dressed in 'short clothes', thus the poorer families were saved the expense of providing a layette.

At the other end of life, we see what happens to the elderly who were 'not in comfortable circumstances': "... as soon as they got past work, they had either to go to the workhouse or find accommodation in the the already overcrowded cottages of their children. A father or mother could usual
ly be squeezed in, but there was never room for both, so one child would take one parent and another the other, and even then, as they used to say, there was always the in-law to be dealt with. It was a common thing to hear ageing people say they hoped God would be pleased to take them before they got past work and became a trouble to anybody."

In between these extremities of life, we find accounts of home, school, play, men working in the fields or trade, women calling on each other for a 'bit of a tell'. Then there are the high points of the year such as Harvest Home and the very special celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887. The fundamental feature of Flora Thompson's writing is her love and respect for the people she grew up with and the places they inhabited: "She was never to see any of these again, but she was to carry a mental picture of them, to be recalled at will, through the changing scenes of a lifetime...... the threads which were to bind her to her native country were more enduring than gossamer. They were spun of love and kinship and cherished memories."

The BBC production of
Lark Rise to Candleford may prove to be a pleasant way to while away an hour on a Sunday evening if all you want is a little costume drama but, whatever you do, don't confuse it with the book of the same name.


  1. Oh, I do so agree. It was pretty, and a cosy enough bit of family viewing for a Sunday evening, but 'loosely based' on the book, to say the least.

    I did wonder last year how the production team were going to tackle it, and obviously their starting point was to garner together half the cast of Cranford and half the cast of Sense and Sensibility and give them all some different bonnets!

    It will undoubtedly result in huge sales for the book, however, which is no bad thing, so long as people don't give up when they can't find the plot and characters they're looking for.

    I've read that they have filmed (or will be filming) enough for a 'second series'. So it sounds like someone's said 'let's plunder the book for a few ideas and then run with it for years'. (A bit like they did with Noddy and Thomas the Tank Engine really!)

  2. I read somewhere that it was going to be a sort of nineteenth century Coronation Street so it could run for ever. With artistic licence which turns a visiting cheap-jack selling crockery (and such sensitive handling of the people's wish to hide their poverty)into a man selling casks of ale on credit, I dread to think what might happen next.

    I can enjoy it for what it is but why did they have to use the title from that lovely book?

  3. I suppose because they thought it would be a good, literary-sounding alternative to 'Sunday Night Easy-Viewing Costume Soap' . . .

  4. It reminded me a bit of The Darling Buds of May with costumes. LOL. I haven't read the books so wasn't sure what to expect but I did have the overall feeling that it ought not to have been quite so cosy and whimsical. Dawn French, much as I like her, was clearly playing it for laughs and that felt misplaced somehow. I shall continue watching but for how long I'm not sure.

  5. To add to the litany ... I thought everything looked a bit too pristine: exteriors of houses, clothes etc. The production team must have forgotten (if they ever knew) that one of the hallmarks of country living is - mud. Everywhere. And for much of the time.

    My sole comforting thought is that I will not miss anything by being away for three weeks.

  6. The irony of your remark about mud, D, is that the series was filmed in all the torrential rain of last summer! I think they were weeks behind schedule.

    Cath, the books are lovely and I recommend them but there are no big characters or events, just a beautiful description of the changing rural scene in late 19th century Oxfordshire.

  7. This is a new title to me, so I checked over at Amazon to see if I could a used copy cheap.

    You'll be amused to know that shipping from the UK will be the ubiquitous $3.99 it is from anywhere in the US.

    Looking so forward to reading it.

  8. I do hope you enjoy it, e.

    The mysteries of shipping costs remain forever closed!

  9. m’luv, your blog has caused a run on "Lark Rise ..." at

    The (used) book I ordered 10 days ago is temporarily not available and my account was credited accordingly. When I tried to reorder, the first three offerings that popped up were also unavailable.

    I ordered the next item at a slightly higher price and got confirmation. Now it is to be seen if shows up.

    A bit off topic, but has anyone else, when ordering a book, come to find when checking out, that the book is really a tape? When did audio and video recordings start being designated books?

  10. I hope you've managed to find one of the illustrated versions of Lark Rise, e. It is lovely to see the flowers and the rural scenes of the time.

    I think audio books are listed with the books on but I don't think the videos are.


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