Monday, September 12, 2011

A Huff Recommendation: Lark Rise to Candleford

The gist of this entry: Please watch Lark Rise to Candleford. It is so good. If you loved Anne of Green Gables, if you are a fan of Little Women or even Pride and Prejudice, you will adore this BBC series as much as I did. 

Often, a period piece that desires to be universal in time and applicability comes across forced and trite.  Drawing a line of similarity between past and present is harder than it seems. Consider the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Sure, we love the romance, the costumes and, yes, what gal doesn’t long for her own Mr. Darcy? But, the lady viewer is left wanting more- not only because all she gets is one lousy kiss out of 5 hours- but there are so few similarities to be drawn between the marriage-eager plotline of the Austen classic with her own life. The average woman of today would not pin her hopes and success entirely outside her own volition.

Sometimes I am startled by how much we (meaning independent women like me) love Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennet is hardly an independent woman. She is only slated thus because she is discriminating in her choice of men. And *GASP* she is unwed at 20! It seems that ladies would find a finer weepy girls’ night companion in Jo March or Anne Shirley. Those are independent women who find their mates and are forced- not by society- but by passion and true love to make room in their lives and hearts for them.
Love in Lark Rise is much like it is on PEI- except with more kissing

Lark Rise to Candleford fits into the timeless category of storytelling. It is the story of a English village (Lark Rise) and a nearby town (Candleford) and the struggle between tradition and progress, nature and industry. But it is not a diatribe of the producer nor a political venue. It is told through little moments in the villager and townspeople’s lives. These tales are populated by imperfect human characters discovering through failure, faith and patience that life is for loving others regardless of differences.
Some of the Lark Rise to Candleford Cast
The stories begin when a young writer, Laura Timmons, leaves her home in Lark Rise (at the insistence of her mother) to find independence in the town of Candleford. We follow her adventures in balancing allegiance to her family and her new employment and friendships at the Candleford Post Office. The post master, Dorcas Lane, (played coincidentally by Julia Sawalha - Lydia from P&P!) is  the "oracle" of the show. Many come to her from advice and she gives it lovingly, though not always well.

The writing for this show has a antiquity to it which could have rendered a barrier for audiences- perhaps like a poorly delivered Shakespearian play. But it doesn’t put off the viewer at all. It is accessible and charming.  The writing is soulful and alive, full of un-flowery truths that extend far beyond their “period piece” vehicle. Consider this excerpt from the introduction to the finale to the 4th and final season.
“It was said of Queenie Turrell that, as she grew older, she could see beyond the horizon. Change was coming to our world, whether it was welcome or not. Some of us might fight such upheaval and some -no matter how hard they might try- it would seem as though they could never change.”
Queenie and Twister
Laura’s narration usually acts as a scene-shifting device but also holds a prominent place as the "Aesop" of the Lark Rise tales. Many episodes end with a nugget of advice from and older Laura’s written reflections. This perspective is a lovely nod to Flora Thompson’s original text from which the stories have been adapted. Here are a couple of Laura’s final reflections from the 4th season.
“It is only by making mistakes and hurting one another that we learn the greatest of human joys: forgiving and being forgiven.”

“Reverend Martin made a point of always telling us that no man is too good for this world and neither is any man too damned for this world.”
My grandmother and parents love this show because it is full of beautiful, funny, entertaining, heartbreaking, true stories of family and faith. It is family friendly television that doesn’t have to spare artistry or quality of writing in order to maintain appropriateness.

I love it because it swallowed me whole. This morning, when I watched the last episode, I wept as though I had lost a friend. It’s that same sinking feeling I got when I finished reading that amazing book or when I waved goodbye to the friend I met at camp. I am relieved to know I can revisit Lark Rise to Candleford. I look forward to it. As of an hour ago- I’ve got the book on reserve at my public library.
(FYI- the whole series is on you tube in 10 minute increments. You have no excuse not to watch it.)


  1. I love that series. I also got the book from the library. I am glad to know I can see it on u tube. Glad to see you talk about it in conjunction with Pride and Prejudice ( another favorite). I grew to love Anne of Green Gables because my mother watched it over and over.

  2. Ryan is going to hate you for posting this (while I, on the other hand, will ADORE you!!!) I love BBC, and Anne of Green Gables (my FAVORITE series) AND P&P, my FAVORITE book!! YAY. So looking forward to starting it. And it's a book too?!? My cup runneth over. Love you.

  3. Carie - I totally had you in mind. I KNOW you will love it.

  4. It is as if you read my mind... and my heart. I have this feeling we won't be settling for u tube. Wouldn't surprise me in the least to discover your father wanting all 4 seasons on dvd for his own. I'm so thankful Uncle Tim and family started us all down the L to C path. So what's next? Any suggestions?


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