Monday, October 29, 2007

Crumpets and Jam anyone?

My mother, knowing what a huge fan I am of Anne of Green Gables, Austen novels and 19th century British life introduced me to a wonderful miniseries this past week. I must confess that I am hooked on the story and it now proudly sits between my Anne DVD’s and my BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. I had such a wonderful time watching the story of these wives and daughters unfold in my living room I almost wanted to change into a flowing dress and black boots, pin in a ribboned hair piece, pull out some needle point and ask when the crumpets would be ready. I just long for a good literature class when I get on my BBC kicks. I want to sit with a hot drink of coco or apple cider and discuss the plight of the heroin and her desires, who she will end up with, all the little idiosyncrasies of the late 1800’s and how I would love to have experienced a little bit of wealthily life from that time period. Well I enjoyed the story so much I though that I would write up a small plot summary with hopes that I could entice some of you to watch this lovely miniseries and talk about it with me. And maybe we could even read an Austen novel and I’ll bring over the coco & sweet biscuits with strawberry jam when we get together to snuggle into a lovely discussion.
Wives and Daughters makes rather acute social observations on the complex class hierarchy as well as customs and mores of English country life during the Victorian era. The author, Elizabeth Gaskell, was born in London in 1810 to middle class parents. She married Reverend William Gaskell when she was 22 and bore him several children. She wrote her first novel, Mary Barton, after her son died of scarlet fever, and it was acclaimed for its shocking but sympathetic portrayal of the grim living conditions of Manchester's factory workers. Her most well-known novel is Cranford, a portrayal of life in a small community which drew on memories of her childhood in the small Cheshire town of Knutsford. Besides novels, she also wrote short stories, essays, and articles, including a biography of Charlotte Brontë.
Wives and Daughters: An Every-Day Story was serialized in installments in the Cornhill magazine from 1864 till 1866, a year after her death in 1865. The final installment was never written, but apparently Elizabeth's intentions with regards to the ending were well-known. The story has been brought to "life" as a four-part costume drama by the same team behind the acclaimed production of Pride and Prejudice: producer Sue Birtwistle and screenwriter Andrew Davies.
The miniseries is also broken into four installments and originally aired on Masterpiece Theater in 1999. The first episode mainly introduces us to the characters and the complex inter-relationships between various family groups in the small English town. The main character is Molly Gibson, the only child of the local doctor. Dr. Gibson has brought Molly up by himself ever since his wife died when Molly was very young, and hence he and Molly have a very close relationship. Molly is headstrong, tomboyish, independent and prone to speaking her mind as there has been a lack of female influence moderating her behavior. Mr. Gibson decides to remarry a former governess named Hyacinth and Molly finds that she has to adjust to her new stepmother's fussy and frivolous ways.
The other family featured in the story is the Hamleys, including the Squire, his wife and their two sons Osborne and Roger. The wife is ill and Molly’s father arranges for her to stay with them for a while to help out and she becomes friends with the two sons. Osborne is the handsome, beloved elder son and his parents have very high expectations of him. When he subsequently fails to meet those expectations, he causes grief to his parents and his frequent trips away from home as well as ever-mounting expenses lead his father to suspect the worst - that he is a gambling ne'er-do-well. His brother Roger was always regarded by his parents as strong and dependable but not too bright. Imagine their surprise when he turns out to be quite a scholar and a scientist.
In the second episode, we are introduced to Cynthia, Hyacinth's beautiful daughter returning to stay with the Gibson’s after some time in France. Cynthia is roughly the same age as Molly and despite their differences in character and temperament, they become close friends. Cynthia is fully aware of her beauty and craves the attention of young men, who seem to flock over her. This includes Roger, who madly proposes to Cynthia just before he is set to go off on a long journey of scientific discovery in Africa.
In episode three, we learn that both Cynthia and Osborne harbor secrets. A Mr. Preston who has been introduced to the plot in previous episodes finally shares his story as a somewhat sinister and unsavory land agent and we see that he seems to have some sort of hold on Cynthia. Molly somehow gets involved in the middle of all these and does her best to hold things together but things fall apart when a series of misunderstandings leads to scandal and gossip that damages Molly's reputation. In addition, Molly has a secret of her own - she has fallen in love with Roger but she refuses to admit this even to herself because of his engagement to her half-sister Cynthia.
What will happen? Will Roger survive Africa and who will he end up marrying? Will the secrets ever be revealed? Will Molly's name and reputation be forever tarnished through no fault of her own? All will be revealed in the fourth, and concluding episode. So run out and get yourself a copy from your local library or rental store as soon as possible.


Gledwood said...

What happened is, I had never seen your blogs before, but I went to
and one of your photos flashed across the screen. There is a facility where you can stop the pictures and go into the blog... So in I went and saw more... that is why I tried to tell you how good they were. The ones of the little girl and the wedding day photos are particularly good!

Gledwood said...

Sorry: I should have prefixed that with: IN ANSWER TO YOUR QUERY...

duh! typical me...

Amie said...

Sounds like a right ol' soap opera! Count me in!

heather said...

discovered this at the library years ago. loved it! Would like to watch it again though