Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Review: Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

Book Description:
Lark Rise to Candleford is Flora Thompson's classic evocation of a vanished world of agricultural customs and rural culture. The trilogy of Lark Rise, Over to Candleford, and Candleford Green tells the story of Thompson's childhood and youth during the 1880s in Lark Rise--in reality Juniper Hill, the hamlet in Oxfordshire where she was born. Through the eyes of Laura, the author's fictional counterpart, Thompson describes the cottages, characters, and way of life of the agricultural laborers and their families with whom she grew up--seasonal celebrations, schooling, church-going, entertainment, and story-telling are described in fond and vivid detail.
My thoughts:
After watching Lark Rise to Candleford: The Complete Season One I became aware that it was based off of the book, Lark Rise to Candleford: A Trilogy by Flora Thompson. I was excited to add it to my The Classics Club list after I found a used copy at Goodwill.

My first surprise was that Lark Rise to Candleford is considered a biography. For some reason I had thought it was fiction. My second surprise is that is was written on a biography and an extremely detailed look into country life in England during the late 1880's.

Lark Rise to Candleford is a compilation of three books that Flora Thompson wrote: Lark Rise, Over to Candleford, and Candleford Green. In the first section of the book we meet Laura (her fictional name) and about her surroundings in the hamlet of Lark Rise .
The hamlet stood on a gently rise in the flat, wheat growing north-east corner of Oxfordshire. We call it Lark Rise because of the great number of skylarks which made the surrounding fields their springboard and nested on the bare earth between the rows of green corn. p. 18
From that point Laura describes in great detail the houses, the children, the workers, the minister, church going, how they lived life, and much more. Though a lot of her focus is on the hamlet itself and its resident, she shares snippets of her own family life especially of the times she shared with her brother, Edmund.

In the second part, Over to Candleford, Laura tells about 'going over to Candleford'.
They were going over to Candleford. It was always called 'going over', for the people never spoke of just plain going anywhere; it had to be going up or down or round or over to a place, and there were so many ups and downs, so many small streams to cross and so many gates across roads to open between their home and Candleford that 'going over' seemed best to describe the journey. p. 301
This part of story still is based on Lark Rise, but she experiences the adventure of going to Candleford, where she meets aunts and uncles. At first she goes with her parents, but eventually when she gets a little older then she and Edmund are allowed to walk the eight miles to Candleford to stay with her cousins. In this story she meets Dorcas Lane, the postmistress of Candleford Green and an old friend of her mother.

In the last part of the books, Candleford Green, Laura is 14 1/2 and is being sent off to work for Dorcas Lane in the Post Office. In Lark Rise it was necessary for the girls to be sent off into service, so the parents could get one child out of the house and to help their finances. Also, their extra income was very helpful. While working in Candleford Green, Laura describes the work in the Post Office and the black smith's forge which was part of the post office. She also talks about many of the changes that were happening during that time. She also describes the people who make up Candleford Green and all their interesting quirks.

I enjoyed reading Lark Rise to Candleford and seeing how the hamlet people lived and thought. I did find it hard to get into at first and I kept picking up other books to read. Thus, I found it took me well over a month to finish the book. I really enjoyed the last section, Candleford Green, the most though I find it somewhat.  Also, as with all TV/Film adaptations this story hardly resembled the book. I will admit I haven't seen past the first season, but outside of the people portrayed that is where any similarities end.

Here are some things I found interesting on different topics:

But they did, at least, believe in cleaning up their houses once a day, for public opinion demanded that of them. There were plenty of bare, comfortless homes in the hamlet, but there was not one really dirty one. p. 99
If nothing had happened in the hamlet since her last call, she was quite capable of inventing something. More often, she would take up some stray, unimportant fact, blow it up like a balloon, tie it neatly with circumstantial detail and present it to her listener, ready to be launched on the air of the hamlet. p.106
Queen Victoria:
There was no Victoria in the school, nor was there a Miss Victoria or a Lady Victoria in any of the farm-houses, rectories, or mansions in the district, nor did Laura ever meet a Victoria in later life. That great name was sacred to the Queen and was not copied by her subjects to the extent imagined by period novelists of today. p. 178
Yet it was thrilling to see a man hurtling through space on one high wheel, with another tiny wheel wobbling helplessly behind. You wondered how they managed to keep their balance. No wonder they wore an anxious air. 'Bicyclist's face', the expression was called, and the newspapers foretold a hunch-backed and tortured-faced future generation as a result of the pastime. p.255
Weight loss:
Many of the great eaters grew very stout in later life; but this caused them no uneasiness; they regarded their expanding girth as proper to middle age. Thin people were not admired. However cheerful and energetic they might appear, they were suspected of 'fretting away their fat' and warned that they were fast becoming 'walking miseries'. p. 347
The local libarian:

The caretaker at the Institute acted as librarian during the day. He was a one-legged man named Hussey, and his manner and qualifications bore no resemblance to those of librarians today. He seemed to bear a positive grudge against frequent borrowers. 'Carn't y'make up y're mind?' he would growl at some lingerer at the shelves. 'Te-ak th' first one y'comes to. It won't be no fuller o' lies than t'others,' and, if that admonition failed, he would bring his broom and sweep close around the borrower's feet, not sparing toes or heels. p.415
Victorian women:
We may call the Victorian woman ignorant, weak, clinging and vapourish--she is not here to answer such charges--but at least we must admit that she knew how to cook. p. 430
The Irish worker:
Words came freely to the Irishman, and there wer rich, war phrases in his letters that sounded like poetry. What Englishman of his class would think of wishing his wife could live like a queen? 'Take care of yourself' would be the fondest expression she would find in his letters. The Irishman, too, had better manners than the Englishman. He took off his hat when he came in at the door, said 'please', or rather, 'plaze', more frequently, and was almost effusive in his thanks for some small service. The younger men were inclined to pay compliments, but they did so in such charming words that no one could have felt offended. p. 472
I am linking up over at:

 This was also one of my selections for The Classics Club.


  1. I've heard of the television program but I didn't realize it was a book, too. Thanks for the review!

  2. I have seen all the seasons of this wonderful show. I must encourage you to venture past the first season. The second and third seasons are even better! :) I remember reading somewhere that the TV show was based off this book, and I thought I should read it sometime, but I never have. Your review was wonderful! It gave me just enough of a glimpse to decide I need to try it myself. So thank you. :)



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