Happy Siblings Day! Take our quiz to see if you’re a Lizzy or a Lydia!
Author Elizabeth Gaskell was born on this day in 1810. In addition to being a contemporary of Charles Dickens, and friend and biographer to Charlotte Bronte, Gaskell can also lay claim to another achievement – authorship of one of the finest book to mini-series adaptations ever made, Cranford.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat – when it comes to period pieces, Hollywood can’t hold a candle to the BBC (although I still haven’t forgiven them for killing off Marian at the end of Robin Hood season 2 in 2007). As well, mini-series make the ideal format to truly capture the essence of a book. Although there are many wonderful film adaptations, often too much is lost when the original has to be cut down to two hours.
Here are seven wonderful books that are also great mini-series:
Pride and Prejudice
How do I always seem to find myself writing about Colin Firth in a wet shirt? Based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the 1995 adaptation is the mother of all mini-series – the one that introduced palpable sexual tension to period drama, with Firth’s Mr. Darcy dripping wet after a dip in the lake, (See? There I go again!) or watching Elizabeth Bennet frolic in the grass from his bath. And kudos to the BBC for their casting of real women to play their heroines. Jennifer Ehle is perfectly lovely and has the requisite ‘fine eyes’ to play the role of Lizzy, but you just know that if a Hollywood-owned studio were casting, the role would go to someone who looked more like – oh, I don’t know – Keira Knightly?
Boasting a large ensemble cast that includes Judi Dench, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton, this 2005 series and its 2010 sequel ‘Return to Cranford’ were based on the book Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Both perfectly capture life in small town England in the 1840’s with just the right balance of humor, romance and drama. And a cow in pajamas. And a cat with – well, you really have to see that part for yourselves.
North and South
Despite the fact that Richard Armitage played the character who ran the aforementioned Marian through with a sword in Robin Hood (thus ruining my favorite show forever,) I can’t hold it against him. Not only is he now known to audiences now as the noble dwarf leader, Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit movies, he was also dreamy as the lead in the 2004 adaptation of Gaskell’s book North and South, a romance between a southern lady and a Northern mill owner during the industrial revolution.
Wives and Daughters
Gaskell’s deft touch weaves humor and drama together once again in her book, Wives and Daughters, and the 1999 series of the same name captures perfectly the tensions that can arise between women and men in blended families. But why does poor Francesca Annis always seem to play the character you love to hate in Gaskell’s series?
If you thought Gillian Anderson had been abducted by aliens (again!) after the X-Files ended, it turns out she’s just been in England. You can catch her in this wonderful 2005 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, a series of subplots with an examination of the flaws in British judicial system at its core.
Matthew MacFadyen may never replace Colin Firth in my heart as the one true Darcy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t adore him. In this adaptation of Dickens’ Little Dorrit, MacFadyen displays his trademark combination of vulnerability, strength and puppy dog eyes in this tale surrounding inmates in a London debtors’ prison in the 19th century. It also features Arthur Darville, who played the Doctor’s companion Rory (if you have to ask ‘Doctor who?’ you just answered your own question) in one of his first TV roles.
Although we’ve had several wonderful portrayals of Rochester to choose from over the years, I love this 2006 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre starring Toby Stephens as the gruff hero. Stephens is the son of Dame Maggie Smith and you can catch occasional glimpses of her angular features in his rugged good looks. The tension between Ruth Wilson as Jane and Stephens’ Rochester is electric.
Jane Austen is not your average bestselling, blockbuster author. She has written what can be argued to be some of the greatest novels ever written. However many people still believe her books are things of the past and cannot be enjoyed by modern readers. Well boy oh boy, have we got a treat for you. Here are six of the juiciest scandals in Jane’s books that would give Miley, Lohan and the Kardashians a run for their money in terms of tabloid headlines.
The last title released by Austen was Emma and it features a matchmaking young lady who makes mistake after mistake, turning the lives of those around her upside down. However, her actions are not the most scandalous. A mysterious piano arrives for a young lady down on her luck. Who could her well-to-do beneficiary be? Is there a womanizing scoundrel in the neighborhood? Or perhaps this lavish gift is from a married man to his mistress. Will this gift be the young lady’s downfall? Will Emma be able to correct her mistakes and therefore fix the lives of her friends and family? Find out all the delicious details in the latest release, Emma.
Sense and Sensibility
Just like Emma, there’s a potential womanizer on the loose in Sense and Sensibility. Don’t let the title fool you into a calm sense of security. All is not what it seems. With playboys running rampant, fooling with young ladies’ hearts, will the myth of a true romantic gentleman hero be lost forever? Or will the ladies be left to pine for a love that does not exist? Only time will tell. Be sure to catch all the gripping moments in Sense and Sensibility.
Sir Walter Elliot has done it again. This silly old man has been making poor business decisions when it comes to his estate. These mistakes are forcing his family to vacate their home in order to pay down recent debts. Let’s hope this will keep the family from declaring bankruptcy. To stay up to date on all the family’s comings and goings read Persuasion.
A family’s dark past is hidden in the halls of Northanger Abbey. Will Catherine Morland be able to uncover General Tilney’s long hidden secrets? Will the past come back to haunt this lovely heroine in the dark corners of the ancient family home?
Another manor house that’s hiding a family secret is none other than Mansfield Park. You may be shocked to find out that all is not as it seems at this lovely home. Sources close to the family are saying that drug use is widespread in this home and can be seen in the open without any concern for modern day decorum. Add to that the fact that the eldest daughter was recently caught in an adulterous affair and one has to wonder if this family will be able to recover some of the shine it once held. Catch up on their shenanigans in Mansfield Park.
Pride and Prejudice
All eyes were on the Bennet girls last night as they took over the dance floor at the local ball. However it was the youngest who drew the attention of those in attendance and not for a good reason. Lydia Bennet was busy flirting and dancing her way around to all the men in uniforms, much to the dismay of her older sisters. Her mother was over the moon with the attention her daughter was receiving but Mr. Bennett refused to comment on the matter. Let’s just hope her actions don’t lead to any bigger scandal. You can catch all the infamous behavior in Pride and Prejudice, and judge for yourself just how poorly Miss Lydia Bennet behaved.
Did you grow up loving Elizabeth Bennet’s spirit, Anne Shirley’s optimism, or Scarlett O’Hara’s fight? Then Erin Blakemore’s, The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder should be the next audio book that you listen to. Erin Blakemore is a self-proclaimed bookworm and loves a good heroine; many times throughout her life she found comfort in these familiar stories.
This audio book looks at twelve classic heroines and the lives of their legendary authors. This added information about the authors really adds to the stories that we know and love. Being a huge Lucy Maud Montgomery fan I particularly liked that chapter and found it very interesting to see the similarities between her life and the life of Anne. I also grew up with the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and found that to be a very eye opening chapter!
Each chapter also includes a list of “literary sisters” where Blakemore recommends other similar characters and the audio books that you should listen to if you enjoyed that particular heroine or her strength. She also tells you what stories are best suited for the mood you are in.
Tavia Gilbert does a great job narrating and she adds even more passion to this audio book. I really enjoyed listening to it and believe that any fan of strong female characters should pick up this audio book.
Even if you haven’t listened to this audio book yet, who is your favorite literary heroine?