I'm off on holidays this week and what better way than to try out a few episodes of the BBC TV period costume-drama series, Lark Rise to Candleford. The series is based upon a trilogy of "novels" written by Flora Thompson about life in the English countryside and focuses on the lives of people of all classes in the poor hamlet of Lark Rise and it's wealthier neighbour, Candleford. The series began in 2008 and was completed this year after receiving much acclaim.
The stories are told through the narrative of young Laura Timmins who leaves her family in Lark Rise to work at the post office in Candleford under the tutelage of Dorcas Lane. Laura is excited to be moving to Candleford for her first job, to learn new ideas and ways and especially so to have her own bedroom. While Dorcas is welcoming and helpful to her protege, many of the residents of Candleford look down upon her as an ignorant country brat.
There are many story lines to follow through the first and second episodes. For example in the first episode the folks of Lark Rise are infuriated that they must pay 3p 6 penny for the delivery of telegrams from Candleford. They are told that it is because their hamlet is outside the "8 mile limit" for delivery. Things come to a head when Victoria Queenie" Turrill receives an urgent telegram but she is unable to receive it because she cannot pay for it. When a second telegram arrives with bad news, the Dorcas, Post Mistress of Candleford feels compelled to visit Queenie to tell her personally. As a result, the hamlet of Lark Rise decide to contest the charges for telegrams. Sir Timothy Midwinter, the fair-minded squire and local justice of the peace, decides that it might be best to measure the distance between the two communities to determine who is in the right.
In the second episode of Series One, Laura narrates two storylines, that of Mrs. Macy's absent husband and the debt troubles of Caroline Arliss whose husband is a sailor and who has left her to manage affairs at home. She is the feisty, strong character in the series and great fun to watch. It also is becoming evident that Sir Timothy and Dorcas are very fond of one another. I learned that Dorcas was Timothy's first love but because of strong social pressure in 19th century Britain, Dorcas and Timothy were not able to marry because they are from different classes.
Fans of British television will recognize many familiar faces, including Ben Miles as Sir Midwinter, Claudie Blakley as Emma Timmins, Brendan Coyle as Robert Timmins, Julia Sawalha as Dorcas, Victoria Hamilton as Ruby Pratt and Dawn French as the raucous and irresponsible wayward Caroline.
The series has a beautiful pastoral setting to it and is for the most part an enjoyable look into English life in the late 1800's. Part soap opera and part drama, it's pure clean fun. Lark Rise to Candleford is void of sex, violence and crassness which dominates most media today.
So far I have immensely enjoyed the incredible millinery creations worn by dressmaker-sisters Ruby and Pearl, the outrageous Caroline Arliss and the steady performances of Coyle and Sawalha. Olivia Hallinan's performance as Laura is outstanding with her expressiveness and innocence perfect for this piece. Her only difficulty seems to be with her accent which sometimes slips into an Irish brogue. C'est quoi?
I'm looking forward to watching more in the series this week.