I love small towns. And the English countryside. And quiet, witty, heartwarming dramas filled with characters whose lives twine about each other in amusing and interesting ways. So when my friend Allison recommended a BBC miniseries that fit all these criteria, I paid attention.
Sarah had gushed over this series last winter, but for some reason I didn’t pick it up then; perhaps it wasn’t the right time. But she alluded to it again recently, just before Allison rhapsodized about it. So I took myself to the library and picked up the first season. And oh, I am in love.
Image from the Guardian
Based on a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels, the story follows Laura Timmins as she moves from the Oxfordshire hamlet of Lark Rise to the nearby town of Candleford, to work in the post office under the guidance of Dorcas Lane, her mother’s cousin. What Laura (and viewers) quickly discover is that the post office is the hub of Candleford. In addition to letters and parcels, the secrets, worries, hopes and problems of the town all seem to pass through Miss Lane’s domain and, eventually, through her capable hands.
Miss Lane is a wonderful leading lady – spunky, sweet and slyly mischievous, as well as witty, sharp-eyed and fiercely independent. She understands, and relishes, the uniqueness of her position as a single woman who owns a business vital to Candleford’s day-to-day life. Though she holds herself and her employees to high standards, she does occasionally use the power of her office to do a bit of well-intentioned meddling in her neighbors’ lives. The results are occasionally disastrous, but always entertaining. And Laura – prim and shy at times, but headstrong and feisty at others – proves a willing and capable apprentice. It is so gratifying to watch her grow into herself.
Image from Life on the Cutoff
This series features the sort of ensemble cast I adore, with characters ranging from plain, simple country folk (Laura’s family and neighbors in Lark Rise) to up-and-coming townspeople (such as the nosy but lovable Pratt sisters, who run a clothing and alterations shop). The inner circle of the post office, including Thomas Brown the devout postman and Minnie the hapless scullery maid, forms a tight little family of its own. They love and scold and take care of one another, no matter what small squabbles or larger troubles they face. Back in Lark Rise, Laura’s parents have a wonderfully realistic marriage. They love one another and their children fiercely, but they do argue from time to time. And their sweet, elderly neighbors, industrious Queenie and her lazy husband Twister, are such fun.
I’m deep into the second of the show’s four seasons (and have developed a crush on Fisher Bloom, the dark-eyed, plain-speaking traveling clockmaker). Some things have changed: there’s a new maid in the post office, a new hotel owner in town with eyes for Miss Lane, new challenges for the residents of both places. But the warm, witty dialogue, the bucolic charm and the spunky, winning characters (all of whom I’d like to meet) remain.
Have you watched Lark Rise to Candleford? If so, what do you think? (No spoilers, please!)