A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
The reason I began watching this program was because of the stars: Francesca Annis, who though no longer the spritely temptress of Lillie Langtry, still commands the screen and Samantha Bond, who was so appealing in Downton Abbey and as Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond. They are two in a likable cast making up the residents of Great Paxford village in England at the beginning of WW2.
The show’s pace may be too slow for some people, but I like the character driven plots. The mood is set by the Enya-like theme song and shots of misty fields and woods. All of the main characters belong to the Women’s Institute, (a name I contrasted with it’s American counterpart, the Junior League) and the first few episodes centered on a power struggle of two strong women competing for President. Joyce Cameron(Annis), the staid incumbent is being challenged by Frances Barden(Bond), who wants to expand the Institute’s activities. We get to know the members of the WI, as well as their families and become caught up in their lives and their secrets. The show accurately portrays old-fashioned morals; the way a young girl’s reputation could be ruined by a love affair and the shame that a battered wife experiences. It also vividly makes us feel a mother’s desperate fear of losing her only child to war.
It took me awhile to get used to some of the camera work, too close views of a person’s face or boots marching, though I did like the shot from underneath a manual typewriter keyboard and don’t know if I’ve ever seen that view before.
While the patriotism of the time is on view, it’s not a mindless outlook, the realization of what sacrifices are being made is acknowledged. In some cases, those sacrifices cause very real pain to the villagers. There’s also an underlying resistance to the war from some characters, which is less commonly depicted and the consequences of those stances. These varying attitudes to the times feel more realistic than many war time settings.
The first season of this ITV drama recently finished here in the US and I was happy to read that a second season is being filmed. For however long it lasts, I look forward to following the residents of Great Paxford and their interactions with each other and the world beyond.