Lark Rise, the first book from Flora Thompson's trilogy, is a history of the English hamlet famously depicted in the BBC adaptation Lark Rise to Candleford. Thompson's story is semi-autobiographical, drawing from her childhood and those who featured in it.
She writes with humor and heartwarming nostalgia. Each chapter is focused on an aspect of the country lifestyle with which she was accustomed. Her memories are rendered with profound detail, allowing for the type of visual imagery that makes a reader feel as if he or she is lying among soft blades of grass or greeting the morning sun before milking the cows.
So much of the intricacies of hamlet life are vivid through Thompson's character Laura, who's reprimanded for her precociousness and whimsical appreciation of life. I read this book after watching the television series twice. I had begun to read this novel with the hopes of better understanding the characters I had grown to love from the screen.
My dismay lies in the fact that Lark Rise was not plot driven, nor did Thompson particularly invest in character development, rather they were used as eyes with which she could guide the reader along the roads of her hometown. Nevertheless, the fleeting moments wherein Thompson offered information about Edmund or Twister had me verbally pronouncing (alone in my room where no one could hear me or question my sanity) my pain upon knowing the dismal futures they had yet to discover. These endings were not demonstrated in the show, and therefore they served as a great surprise for me, albeit a sad one, while reading it on the page.
Finally, because Thompson is a woman recounting a personal history at a point in time where technology has distracted from the natural delicacies of nature and life has essentially progressed beyond farming and spring fairs, Lark Rise reads as a melancholic dream of long ago, an intimate love letter to a simpler time.
AND the illustrations for each of the chapters were absolutely beautiful etchings