We have been enjoying the BBC television series Lark Rise to Candleford, so I picked up Flora Thompson’s semi-autobiographical trilogy of the same title. Although quite different from the television adaptation, I still really enjoyed it. (I’ve enjoyed both on their own merits, I should say. They are dissimilar enough for that.) The novels tell a slow moving and highly descriptive coming of age story. Although written in the third person, it feels a little bit as if you are sitting across the table from your grandmother as she recalls anecdotes of her childhood and adolescence in a rapidly changing world. I could relate somewhat to young Laura as she comes into her own and tries to find her place in a world where she doesn’t quite fit.
Here is one particularly beautiful section:
“The accumulated depression of months slid from her at last in a moment. She had run out into the fields one day in a pet and was standing on a small stone bridge looking down on brown running water flecked with cream-colored foam. It was a dull November day with grey sky and mist. The little brook was scarcely more than a trench to drain the fields; but overhanging it were thorn bushes with a lacework of leafless twigs; ivy had sent trails down the steep banks to dip in the stream, and from every thorn on the leafless twigs and from every point of the ivy leaves water hung in bright drops, like beads.
A flock of starlings had whirred up from the bushes at her approach and the clip, clop of a cart-horse’s hoofs could be heard on the nearest road, but these were the only sounds. Of the hamlet, only a few hundred yards away, she could hear no sound, or see as much as a chimney-pot, walled in as she was by the mist.
Laura looked and looked again. The small scene, so commonplace and yet so lovely, delighted her. It was so near the homes of men and yet so far removed from their thoughts. The fresh green moss, the glistening ivy, and the reddish twigs with their sparkling drops seemed to have been made for her alone and the hurrying, foam-flecked water seemed to have some message for her. She felt suddenly uplifted. The things which troubled her troubled her no more. She did not reason. She had already done plenty of reasoning. Too much, perhaps. She simply stood there and let it all sink in until she felt that her own small affairs did not matter. Whatever happened to her, this, and thousands of other such small, lovely sights would remain and people would come suddenly upon them and look and be glad.
A wave of pure happiness pervaded her being, and, although it soon receded, it carried away with it her burden of care. Her first reaction was to laugh aloud to herself. What a fool she had been to make so much of so little. There must be thousands like her who could see no place for themselves in the world, and here she had been, fretting herself and worrying others as if her case were unique. And, deeper down, beneath the surface of her being, was the feeling, rather than the knowledge, that her life’s deepest joys would be found in such scenes as this.”
~Flora Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford, p.433-435