Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Reading Assignment: Lark Rise to Candleford

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson is actually a trilogy, bound in one volume.  The three memoirs within are: Lark Rise, Over to Candleford, and Candleford Green.  Although this is nonfiction, it reads like a novel.

Lark Rise is about life in a tiny rural hamlet in Oxfordshire in the 1880s.  Thompson describes a way of life that was starting to decline and had completely disappeared by the 1930s, when she wrote the books.  Although the focus is on the hamlet itself and all its residents, there is particular attention paid to a girl named Laura, and her family.  Over to Candleford and Candleford  Green focus more on Laura, as she visits the nearby town of Candleford, and later, as a teen, takes a job in the post office in Candleford Green.  Of course, "Laura" is Flora Thompson herself.

Lark Rise to Candleford is not a romantic or sentimental look at cottage life.  Thompson gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It was a time when wages didn't increase for decades, when the poor elderly went off to the workhouse, and children were expected to leave school and earn their own way by age eleven.  It's interesting how the hamlet parents planned their own children's careers with the same intensity that today's parents sign their kids up for SAT prep and fret about college admissions.  An excellent career track for a girl of that class and that time was to work as a servant in one of the more modest households in the area.  This was called her "petty place."  A girl stayed at her petty place for a year, learning how to be a servant, and then found employment as a scullery maid or other low-level servant in a grand establishment.  If all went well, she would work her way up to be cook, head housemaid or housekeeper, an excellent career at the time.  Laura's mother has her heart set on Laura becoming a nursemaid, and eventually nanny and is sadly disappointed when she realizes that Laura isn't particularly interested in children.

The three books together are utterly charming and good to come home to after a long day.  They were made into a BBC TV series, of which I've seen only the first episode of season one.  I recall that I thought the show was just OK, but I have added the rest of the disks to my netflix queue.

A good choice for anglophiles and those who enjoy quiet, rural things.

9 comments:

  1. I fear there might not be any important and wholesome violence or sex in these books.

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    1. There are references to sex and violence, but definitely nothing graphic.

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  2. I am still assembling my summer reading stack. Would this warrant a serious look? Among the lot is "August :Osage County", if that helps.

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    1. If you really want to learn about village life in Victorian England, I'd give it a serious look.

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  3. LOVE this BBC series. My go-to when I, too, want to enjoy quiet, rural things.

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    1. Oh good, I'm glad you like the series! I'm curious to see the rest of it.

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  4. So, this IS a book, eh? I always wondered...
    I bet I'd like it.

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  5. I didn't realise it was non-fiction. Having caught a glimpse of the BBC series, I thought it was a historical comedy.

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