Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lark Rise to Candleford - Book Versus Series

Spring of 2008 I got hooked on the new BBC series Lark Rise to Candleford. I just could not get enough of the sweet little series set in Oxfordshire where nothing every really went wrong and life was calm and peaceful, but with a dash of humor, especially from Dawn French. After the first series ended I found myself suffering severe Lark Rise withdrawal, how was I going to last till Christmas!?! I decided to take the logical step and read all the books the series is based on, Lark Rise, Over to Candleford and Candleford Green, thankfully all contained in the volume I was able to get my hands on! But the first two books were not exactly as I expected them to be. They had the sweet rural charm of the series but then after a lovely description the author would take all the loveliness away with some backhanded remark. Twister, that sweet old man who all the children loved years later would kill cats for pleasure. Mr. Timmins always dreamed of getting out of the hamlet and leading a better life for his family, 40 years later he died still in the end house in the hamlet. I thought how could this be what my lovely series was based on? The books had a dark ominous air that these "future echoes" imparted. I put down the book and would only read a little at a time because that is all I could take. I finally finished it and I actually am glad I did, and not because it was over, but because the third book was actually the series I knew and loved. All the characters were finally there and all the horribleness of the future was left unsaid.

Flora Thompson wrote these books as an autobiography, only changing her name from Flora Timms to Laura Timmins. They were based on her growing up in rural Oxfordshire and then going on to work in the Post Office. The television series starts with Laura going off to the Post Office to start work, and that is where Candleford Green starts. By her third and so far best book she has done away with the ominous storm clouds of progress and sticks mainly in the then and now. We see the day to day life of a bustling town, not quite a city but not a hamlet. All the wonderful characters from the series are present, from the Pratt sisters who do dress work to Dorcas Lane and Zillah. This book is what I expected of the previous two! The sweet country reminiscences of Laura being in between two worlds.

If you have not yet watched this show I urge you to watch it immediately (it has been airing on PBS and will be out on DVD October 10th). Likewise if you have watched the series and are in desperate need of some more adventures of these lovable characters before season two airs in the US or season three in the UK, I suggest reading Candleford Green. I am also excited for the follow up to Candleford Green, Heatherley about Laura's first job as head of a Post Office in Grayshott, I'm not endorsing this yet though, I have yet to read it and it might be just as sad and depressing as the first two.

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: 1945
Format: Paperback, 537 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)


I found it useful to separate the books and the TV series in my mind--I found the first two books (am about to read the third) fascinating. The references to her brother dying later, and the disappointing ends to her parents lives, were poignant to me, and added depth to the telling. We grow up thinking nothing will ever change, and these notes just remind us of longer term context.

Oh yes, I agree you get the full long term context. But if you're going in and reading them because of the tv series and are a person who can't seperate the dramatization from the source material you are in for a big surprise.

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