Sunday, August 26, 2012


The BBC adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's 'Parade's End' started on Friday, I enjoyed it for many reasons, but especially because it was something new to me. I am sick and tired of adaptations of Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, anything else written by a Bronte, and beginning to feel the same way about Dickens*. That 'Parade's End'  is pretty to look at is another attraction, it also has a top class bitch in the alluring form of Sylvia and that doesn't go amiss either.

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent reader, one even prepared to take on a challenge from time to time, but Modernism has never really appealed to me. My degree wasn't in English Literature so I've never had to tackle it, youthful flirtations with Virginia Woolf and James Joyce weren't fruitful and since then I've been content to leave well alone. I had heard of Ford Madox Ford, but mostly because I once got him confused with Ford Madox Brown (the painter), I never got further than that with him.

Now that 'Parade's End' is not only on a screen near me, but was also spread across the weekend papers, and I think coincidentally being read by Thomas at My Porch, I'm definitely interested despite being told it's a Modernist masterpiece. So interested that I picked up a copy of the actual book whilst out and about earlier - something I'm sure plenty of others will do too, some of us may even read it - I certainly have ambitions in that direction. 

For all the book's relative obscurity the BBC series isn't an off beat choice. After Downton Abbey anything Edwardian and First World War based had to be a safe bet, it seems there's also a lot of sex - which always sells, and having Benedict Cumberbatch on board is icing on the cake. Because I, and I guess plenty of people who watch this series, didn't know the book beforehand it's possible to come at it without all the preconceptions attached to another 'Pride and Prejudice' or similar, and I say this as someone who's generally prepared to sit back and be entertained by what ever is put in front of her. 

As for what I've seen so far - it's intriguing, Julian Fellows talked about all the sex in Saturday's Guardian but I was more interested in how angry the main characters seemed. Christopher and his wife Sylvia are trapped together in marriage, bound by moral responsibility on his side, religious conviction on hers, both are angry, I can only imagine how they'll feel once the war kicks in. Watching it has also encouraged me to think about some sort of reading strategy for the book - it's a quartet that currently comes packaged as the one book - 'Parade's End' that takes up roughly 800 pages of closely typed print. For a book everybody seems to consider confusing that feels like a lot to tackle in one run, especially if my reading time is an hour here or there, I'm hoping a better plan will be to tackle it a book at a time and only when I can throw a whole weekend at it but any better advice will be taken on board.

*Much as I love Jane Austen and tolerate both the Bronte's and Dickin's enough is enough.


  1. A lot of sex! What! Really? Not in the novels, not at all. They're rather a lot of not-sex - a build to sex that is thwarted somehow.

  2. It is a coincidence and I hope there is the characteristic lag between UK and US showings of BBC miniseries. That will give me time to read the remaining three novels. Was Julian Fellows involved in Downton Abbey? If so, I am a little worried. My DA honeymoon was shortlived. I think those scripts are awful. If it weren't for a beautiful period details and Maggie Smith I am not sure I would even bother watching.

    From reading Some Do Not, I am not convinced Sylvia has much religious conviction--more like a social convention borne out of her religious affiliation. If she was religious she wouldn't have run off to Europe with another man.

    I agree with you about having enough filmed Austens, Brontes, and Dickens. My number one choice for adaptation is Barbara Pym. They would make such fun little movies.

    1. Don't worry, Julian Fellows was just writing about it, Tom Stoppard did the adaptation. It looks sumptuous but I can't answer for how well the book is treated. Having seen so much about it though I'm determined to get round to reading the book.

  3. Just as well I wasn't going to read it looking for explicit descriptions of train board encounters then. Sylvia got a lot of action on the BBC outing but I had already suspected that might be artistic licence.

  4. Sylvia's train encounter is mentioned in the book but not described. As Tom says, there's not a lot of actual sex in the book. Just imagine what Andrew Davies would have made of it! I've read the first book but got bogged down in Book 2 so I've put it aside for now. I'm looking forward to the series if it's shown here. Benedict is always worth watching.

  5. I'm curious about the book, I want to read it but am not sure how much I'll enjoy reading it. I'm hoping I'll surprise myself and fall in love.