Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Blessed Plot, This Earth, This Realm ...

The other day Pom Pom mentioned the book Lark Rise to Candleford on her blog, and the title alone made me want to read it. So I put it on hold at the library, and yesterday I picked it up. Now I am afraid to read it.

Just listen to this jacket flap copy: In the 1880s the countryside was on the brink of unalterable change, and the march of progress would soon wipe away the unique idiosyncrasies of a centuries-old way of life. But Flora Thompson was born in time to capture it forever, with her unforgettable gallery of characters--Old Sally, Miss Lane the Postmistress, Sir Timothy, Miss Macey and the rest--and her unsentimental but deeply affectionate account of the humble details of the life she knew.

I think the only way for me to read this book is to stop every five minutes and chant They didn't have antibiotics at least twenty times. Otherwise, I fear I will emerge from the book into the 21st century and be sad for the way things are, the pollution, and the children writing terrible things about each other on their Facebook pages, and the movies that pass themselves off for entertainment, but are so deeply vile I can't believe people aren't outraged by them.

The copy of Lark Rise to Candleford I've checked out is the illustrated edition, and there are many beautiful pictures of the countryside, the flora and the fauna, the children on their way to school. When I look at them I must remind myself: It rains a lot in England. The weather is often dreary and miserable. You think you would be happy there, but you wouldn't. Plus, back in the day, they didn't have antibiotics.

And of course the England of Lark Rise to Candleford--and the England of one of my favorite films, A Room with a View--no longer exists. But I want it to exist, the same way I want a world without Judd Apatow movies (which are very funny, but so spiritually empty I want to jump off the roof after watching them) and children making one another commit suicide with their online smear campaigns.

But we do have penicillin--and that ain't nothing.

So will I read Lark Rise to Candleford? How can I resist? Though I might get my own copy to read at the beach in June, where I will be surrounded by so much insistent beauty that I will be able to bear the beauty of the 19th century English countryside and those children with their rosy little cheeks.


Pom Pom said...

I'm glad you are reading Lark Rise to Candleford. The fat book is heavy so I grow tired of bedtime reading, but as soon as school is out, I am going to take every moment I can (when the house is quiet and the people here are off doing things besides hanging around me) I really AM going to read it aloud to myself. The thing I am noticing is the similarities between the hamlet residents and my UK grandparents (well, that's where they originated) and so many of the stories they'd tell, songs they'd sing, and routine housekeeping rituals definitely stem from this way of life. It makes me feel very connected. Even my mother bundled us up and sent us outside (brrrr - the Pacific Northwest was COLD!) for the entire morning so she could finish up all the chores. That's what the moms from Lark Rise did, too! The films are fantastic. I just bought season 2 and I am eagerly waiting for it to arrive. Yes, I'll keep reminding myself: no antibiotics, rare bathing, REALLY tedious cooking, poverty, yeah.

Tracy said...

Antibiotics and electricity. Marvellous inventions that make life so much easier.

My great grandmother used to tell me there was not too much good about the 'good ol' days'...they were just jolly hard work!

debbie bailey said...

Oh, how I relate to this post. Every time I go to England I keep looking for the England from the movies, and it's just not there. The borders area is pretty close though. Wales is like that England. So is Scotland. And there ARE pockets in England. You just have to search very hard for them. Chawton, where Jane Austen lived, is very rural and isolated.

Maybe that could be your next book, Finding Old England in this Century, or something of the sort. I'll go with you and help you look for Merry Olde England!

PatsyAnne said...

The books are so heavy - BUT they are on DVD - I just got the first one from Netflix and am in love with it... Dawn French plays the mother of a batch of children who live in abject poverty with the belief that "something will happen" - it will work itself out... the embodiement of Miss Lane, Lord Timothy, and the others makes it more real to me... Can't wait to watch disc 2!

Gumbo Lily said...

I love that book! I especially love the big illustrated edition you have. Oh, I love it. You are right about reminding yourself of the hardships they had back then,in fact, I do remember that the author does mention things like the lack of food and such, but mostly, it's a nice book and one you want to last forever.

Yes, get a copy to read through June. You will want to stretch it out so it lasts. Just when I think I want the good ol' days, I remind myself how much I like my automatic dishwasher and washing machine and computer and all.


Dulce Domum said...

Hmm, Lark Rise. Lark Rise is a wonderful book, and really does capture a culture which was beginning to vanish. For me, the most interesting bits are when she compares the lifestyle of the hamlet dwellers before the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions to the lifestyle of the hamlet dwellers in the 1880s. Also, don't be fooled by the DVDs, Lark Rise is a gritty book. I don't think Flora Thompson had rose tinted spectacles about her childhood: for all the beauty and freedom, it was impoverished.

There are proper villages still left in England though. My grandparents lived in a village on the Liecestershire/Warwickshire border and people were always dropping in to chat with my gran: bringing veg and eggs and so on. Also, when driving through a N.Warks village the other day I noticed that someone had left a brace of pheasants hanging on their front door knob!

If you come, visit Casa Domum. I'll show you some beautiful spots off the tourist trail - and a bit of D H Lawrence style grim reality!

Angela said...

So interested to read this post - and the following comments. No Tracy - England hasn't been like that for YEARS! and the Richard Curtis movies [Notting Hill, love Actually, Bridget Jones etc] set in 'contemporary' Britain are very unreal- you wont find us like that either.
But your recent comment on MY blog [who ARE those 2 men?] makes me realise that the UK news media [esp the BBC] is actually miles better at reporting world political events than the US news media.

We here all knew about Biden, mcCain, Palin and Obama - but I suspect Cameron, Osborn, Clegg, Mandelson, Milliband, and Brown are names which mean nothing to you.
Not to mention Darling and Balls.

But then what do I know? I dream of visiting the USA and stopping for a week in Lake Wobegon!!

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Hey, everyone, thanks for your comments. I'm happy to hear L&C is gritter than I thought it would be--it's good to have the beauty of the past leavened, if only so we remember what's beautiful and good about our own times without wallowing in nostalgia for times past.

Angela, I do know Gordon Brown and David (?) Cameron, I just don't get "Dec" and "Ant". But I do think you're right: the BBC does a much better job of reporting internationally than does much of the US press, with the exception of the NY Times. We actually get the BBC news hour here on our local radio station at 9 every morning, and listening to it, I've learned there is a world outside of the U.S. Who knew?!

Angela said...

OK- Ant and Dec are two young British TV presenters, and we of the 'older generation' are never sure which is which!