And just like that Fall Break is over. I had grand plans. Singlehandedly I would lead my class to victory (we’re competing on the number of pages read). Alas, a new BBC miniseries shook my world all over again leaving me unable to plough through my stack of N.T. Wright, Les Mis, Anthony Esolen’s book about imagination and today’s child, Paul Tough’s book about education and character, and the list goes on and on.
Ever since I was a young girl (probably nine or ten) the BBC has had the power to enthrall. Pride and Prejudice was my introduction to the world of the literary miniseries. I cannot begin to name the number of classic novels I’ve plowed through because I’d seen the miniseries and was left wanting more. The best miniseries follow certain criteria:
- They are made by the BBC. This is pretty non-negotiable.
- They are set in England. Sure, things could take place elsewhere in the world, but why not set every good miniseries in England?
- They do not take place in the present. Costume drama is the name of the game. I suppose Sherlock would be the exception to this.
- The same actors appear over and over. There’s more or less a set cast. As some one who loves familiarity and routine I appreciate seeing the same friendly faces over and over.
- A good love triangle. This means three well-developed characters enduring all kinds of heartbreak. Matthew-Mary-Lavinia does not count because Lavinia is not actually a character.
I think this list could go on, but these five are a good start in the right direction. Anyways, I watched Parade’s End over the break. Five hour long episodes. And now I’m once again doggedly pushing my way through a monstrous novel. Give me plain old Victorian wordiness any day. This novel has no real chronology, and it is killing me! Still, stiff upper lip and all that. Must muster through.
Truly the star of this series was the heroine (or anti-heroine). Wholly despicable, I should’ve hated her, but I was rooting for Sylvia up until the end. And maybe a little bit past the end. This is a moral failing in me. I never love/hate the right characters. I never connected with Anna Karenina or Levin (two protagonists in Anna Karenina). My true favorite was Anna’s husband, Alexei Karenin. In Tartuffe, I loved Tartuffe the best. In Hamlet my favorite was Polonius. In the gospel of Luke I have always stood firmly by the side of Martha. In Little Women I couldn’t have cared less about Beth; everyone knows that Meg is the best sister. I guess I hate feeling rail-roaded into liking or disliking a character. I prefer the author to draw the characters as complexly as possible and allow me to make up my own mind.
What more is there to say? Set in England before/during WWI, Christopher Tietjens (brilliant statistician) is married to Sylvia. She is bad news, and has managed to make his life more or less miserable. Then he meets Valentine Wannop, suffragette. Of course they fall in love. The only thing standing between their happiness is the fact that Christopher stands for monogamy and chastity. Also, Sylvia is secretly in love with her husband (scandalous!), but can never tell him because that would be too obvious. And now having typed this out I realize it sounds like something straight out of middle school or a really low-brow romance novel. But it’s so much better.
And now back to my 900 page modernist novel to see what other tidbits I can glean.