Saturday, September 25, 2010

Goodbye to Lark Rise

Goodbye to Lark Rise

    What a pleasure to spend my summer at Lark Rise. Lark Rise is the fictional name of the hamlet of Flora Thompson’s childhood. Who is Flora Thompson? She was an Englishwoman, wife and mother of three children. I invite you to read her biography online. She never attended high school, married early and loved to read. In the last decade of her life she wrote an account of her childhood (1880-1890s) in three volumes. Today these volumes are published as, Lark Rise to Candleford – A Trilogy.

     Lark Rise to Candleford isn’t found on a list of important autobiographies. Criticized for having no plot you won’t find it on a list of great novels, either. It is, however, a minor classic. With no bloody crime, deep remorse, nervous suspense, fast action, hanky-panky or any other worrisome conflict, many will find its pages a refreshing change of pace.  

BBC Series

    Dean and I were browsing a bargain bookstore when I came across it.  Reading the back cover I thought, “This sounds lovely. I’ve never heard of this before.” A year later my book was still unread. It was packed in a box for our household move. The next winter the BBC television series “Lark Rise to Candleford” was being aired. I had remembered the title of my unread book and went searching for it. Yes, it was the same author on which the series was based. 

 Flora is Laura

    For the sake of entertainment the story plots of the TV series were invented. Without the stories what’s left? You might be wondering. Descriptions of the end of an era, of a way of life in England that was crumbling away to make room for modern conveniences, assembly line manufacturing, mass transportation, prepackaged food products, etc. Flora remembers what life in the 19th century was like. Calling herself “Laura” she describes it all by way of a cherished memory.

Neat and Tidy Poor People

    I can clearly see the “poor people’s houses” and where Laura lived in the “end house.” I can see Laura’s parents, siblings, neighbors, the clothes they wore and the work they did. I can hear the children’s songs (she supplies the words) and outdoor games. I can smell her mother’s stew simmering on a wood burning stove in the stuffy atmosphere of their tiny cottage swept spotlessly clean and yet so meagerly furnished and so dimly lit by its few windows.

A Country Neighborhood

    Nature surrounded the hamlet and was always changing. Laura, in childlike newness, takes in all the beauty of the plowed fields, the meadows, woodlands, birds, and wildflowers, missing none of their charms. Much of her time was spent outdoors in the fresh air keeping watch over her younger sisters and observing the goings-ons of the tight little hamlet. 


A Village Post Office

    At sixteen Laura was sent to work in the post office with Miss Lane in the village of Candleford Green eight miles from her home. She visits her relatives and describes a whole village of characters she gets to know during post office hours and outside them. Through the eyes of the “growing up” Laura we become privy to her social commentary. 
(The brown building to the right is a British post office one hundred years ago.)

In No Rush

    I was in no rush to say goodbye to Lark Rise. Now that I’m finished I feel I’ve been left with a possession. I know something about the world I didn’t know before. I’d like to think that looking at life through the eyes of another has enlarged my sympathies. I would have read aloud portions of Lark Rise to my highschoolers had I known about it then. Alas, this is another book they’ll have to pick up themselves.

A click on Lark Rise will take you to CBD.

A Bone to Pick    

The BBC series adds mysticism and makes the country folk out to be far more superstitious than Flora Thompson ever implies. One Christian character is ludicrous. In her writings Flora (an Anglican) shows respect for Christian, non-Christian, conservative and liberal alike.

Until next time,

Karen Andreola 


  1. Hi Karen,
    This is the book you told me about???..I am curious to find it and read. I just love old books...and old obscure stories.
    You peak my interest. It has been a joy to meet you and Dean...
    Until next time...
    xo, Donna

  2. Thank you for the recommendation, Karen. I have just put Lark Rise to Candleford on hold at my local public library. It sounds like a charming read and I look forward to it. :)

  3. I have Lark Rise to Candleford and her book called Still Glides the Stream on my stack of books to read as the weather turns colder.

    It is one of my "Victoria" books, recommended by the original Victoria magazine.

  4. Dear Karen,
    I doubt you would remember me, it has been so many years since I have bought your books (boy we have been in this HSing thing a long time) but I am thrilled to find out you have started a blog. You have always been such a kindred spirit to me, the first to introduce CM to me and throughout the years as I have spoke about CM to HSers, it is your books I have recommended. I am rereading pocketful of pinecones right now. It is a fall ritual for me. You even inspired me to work CM into my novel. I am looking forward to reading your other posts and future posts.
    Blessing Clarice Fox-Hughes from Bainbridge Island

  5. I am headed to our local library to secure this book, thanks for sharing...

  6. This is a story that would truly be wonderful to read.

    As always, the TV adaptation is not even close to the book!

    Thank you for sharing...


  7. Dear Karen, I have just begun to read "Our Village" by Mary Russell Mitford, originally published in the early 1800's from article in The Lady's Journal. These are sweet descriptions of the places and characters about a small village in England. My edition is beautifully illustrated by art from several artists depicting country life. It also illustrated by little still-lifes by Shirley Felts. I share this with you knowing that as I read I am walking down lanes and observing the inhabitants of the village that you too would enjoy. Though I have just begun the book, I heartily recommend it as a "vacation" from the cares of daily toils, a respite rich with lessons of grace and charity.
    God Bless your day, Cheryl

  8. It's lovely to read your comments on the book.

    We happened to come across the BBC version via our library's dvd collection. Whilst we're enjoying some of the episodes, we always know that the original work is so much better. I'm looking forward to reading the book soon.

  9. How funny. I discovered the TV series a couple months ago, which led me to the book. I too was immersed in Candleford. I was so sad when it ended, but near the end she mentioned the book Cranford, which also had a BBC series so I jumped into that and also loved it. Then a week later I found you via Pocketful of Pinecones which has been a HUGE blessing to me!