Lark Rise to Candleford – not the same as the tv

Greetings from the Frozen North! When watching the BBC weather forecast I often point out that this is the coldest place in England; according to the internet it is colder here than Edinburgh. Burr!! And Downton Abbey has finished, a glorious costume drama that had so many male fans ( including in this house) that support groups have been set up. Still, Garrow’s Law is back, so all is not lost.

Rememberance Sunday is, as always, cold. Watched the town parade and was amazed how many younger people were in uniform; from smart air cadets to tiny Boys Brigade. Must not forget the Girls Brigade as well, who looked very smart. Oh, and Daughter’s Choir rose to the occasion, despite a wobbly rehearsal. Daughter looked as though her choir had been stolen and replaced.  Keep the Director of Music guessing, a new policy.

All this talk of town events introduces today’s book. Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson

When this book came up at a book group, I was told we simply must read this, because of the tv version. Well, anyone tackling this long book on that basis will be disappointed. Some of the characters are there, but most are disposed of very quickly and their stories certainly do not tend to the whole as neatly as the BBC version. Laura and her birthplace Hamlet are recorded, but she is a bookish child and not the young woman. The Hamlet of Lark Rise is described in loving detail, the rhythms of life faithfully recorded by an author who knew that this way of life was fast disappearing. The first book is a lovely record of a tiny, intricate community, and is only in the second and third book that we see much of the outside world, and then only through the eyes of Laura for whom a small town is a new experience.

This is a classic book, which brings the reader gently into its world view. It can be frustrating in that some of the themes and strands of life are hinted at, even begun, but tail off as if a glimpse will suffice. It is not a coherent novel with a clear narrative flow; it depicts the life of the area as a whole, with tales of characters bumping up against one another as if they occurred to the writer in no particular order. It is, like some eighteenth century novels I have known (and loved!?!), not plot driven, but full of characters richly plundered by the tv writers and developed. To appreciate the book as a whole for all its possibilities of characters, rural facts, historical trends etc  it would be necessary to have a detailed index, which I assume does not exist. It is, in the three volume edition, a long read. It is an involving one, and those fond of the tv version could spend many a happy hour finding the origins of the characters and themes featured. It is a challenge to read this book, but one of those that you miss when you have finished. Maybe I had better dig out the dvds now, and finish missing The Abbey….

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