Despite all my ravings about my Kindle and how wonderful and super technology is, this edition of Lark Rise to Candleford is a prime example of why I will never ever stop collecting books. Lark Rise arrived just before Christmas and I have not had much time to look at it until the last week or so when it has been by my bedside to read before sleep at night.
It is not the kind of book one can read straight through but repays the dipping in and out approach as this is not a narrative which is going to reach out and grab you and is not to be rushed. It is an evocative portrait of a vanished world of agricultural customs and rural culture and best taken in small bites to savour. The trilogy, Lark Rise, Over to Candleford and Candleford Green tells the story of Flora Thompson's youth and childhood during in 1880s. Laura is Flora herself and it is through her eyes that she describes the cottages, characters and way of life of the families with which she grew up. She tells us that after their mid-day meal the women allowed themselves some leisure and would sit and talk and sew in the shade and try to avoid the gossips who began to get busy at this hour.
"One of the most dreaded of these was Mrs Mullins ...... she visited every cottage in turn knocking at the door and asking the correct time, or for the loan of a few matches - anything to make an opening. She talked no scandal. Had she done so, her visits might have been less unwelcome. She just babbled on about the weather, or her son's last letter or her pig..... Poor Mrs Mullins! With her children all out in the world her home must have seemed un bearably silent....nobody wanted her for she had nothing interesting to say ...she was that worst of all bores, a melancholy bore, and at the sight of her door key and little black shawl the pleasantest of little gossiping groups would scatter"
This edition of Lark Rise to Candleford has the original wood engravings at the start of every chapter and they are enchanting. I do love this kind of illustration, so precise and so beautifully done. It is printed on lovely smooth paper and is a joy to hold and to stroke. Can't do that with a Kindle!
I gave up on the BBC dramatisation of this some time ago as it seemed to lack drama to an amazing degree and the pacing is slower than molasses in January, so much so that when I have watched it for five minutes or so recently, I have fallen into a comatose state almost immediately. Dawn French, for all her over-bucolic acting in the first couple of series, at least added a bit of excitement to it all but it now seems all so dreary. I am sure it is also the cleanest pair of villages I have ever seen, even the mud is neat and tidy and seems to be bathed in permanent golden glow. I am all for a bit of getting-away-from-reality but this series does seem to be going a bit too far for me.
As I said, a gorgeous book and one which will not be passed on but will be remaining firmly on my shelves. Once again, my thanks to Oxford University Press for another gem.