I love a good costume drama — the sets, the costumes, the hair, the genteel manners. What I DON’T love is the message that many costume dramas send to young women: the most important thing you can do — maybe the ONLY important thing — is find a husband. Obviously a rich one would be best.
Enter Lark Rise to Candleford. This delightful series is based on the autobiographical novel by Flora Thompson. Set in 19th century Oxfordshire, the series follows young Laura Timmins played by Olivia Hallinan (Torchwood, Jack Falls) as she leaves her small village of Lark Rise to go work with her cousin Dorcas Lane, the local postmistress played by Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous, Pride and Prejudice) in the next town, Candleford.
While romance abounds both for Laura and Dorcas, the focus is never on finding a husband to cement their future or fortunes. Plus, a number of other independent women characters are regulars in the series.
Lovers of Downton Abbey will recognize Brendan Coyle, who plays the kindly John Bates, as Laura’s outspoken father. Other recognizable players include:
- Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibley, French and Saunders) as a jolly, but drunkenly spendthrift mother of many
- Mark Heap (Stardust, Green Wing) as the uptight postman
- Karl Johnson (Hot Fuzz, Rome) as an unreliable old coot who can’t stay away from his tipple
- Linda Basset (The Hours, Calendar Girls) as his long-suffering herbalist beekeeper wife
- Claudie Blakely (Cranford, Gosford Park) as Laura’s wise mother
Plus, I positively DARE you not to fall in love with salt-of-the-earth handy man with an accordion and a plough, Alf Arless, played by John Dagleish (Age of Heroes, Beaver Falls).
Four seasons of this gentle drama await you on Netflix or Amazon. You needn’t worry about language, sexual situations or frightening content. Plots include such easy themes as what happened to the lost postal package, how to share the windfall of a pig, and where a mysterious embroidered panel originated.
Brew up some Oolong, put the cake on your good china, and make a date with your young ladies to watch this scrumptious costumed treat.