Far from the Madding Crowd Meets Maeve Binchy. With a Hint of Pride and Prejudice.
I had never even heard of this almost 25-year-old British historical drama, one of my favorite genres. Someone, to whom I am most grateful, mentioned it in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to. I believe it was the British Period Drama group. Well, I looked into it, read the reviews, decided it was right up my alley, and bought it on DVD on impulse. I forgot to see if it was available on YouTube. (It is.)
Innocent, pretty Elizabeth is seduced by a traveling actor who leaves her pregnant in the Ireland of the 1930s. Since her socially respectable and well-off parents refuse to let her stay at home to have her baby (Oh the scandal), she is presented with two options. Either go to a Magdalene asylum or marry a 40-year-old farmer with 4 young daughters whose wife just died. She decides to go to the asylum but when she walks in and takes a look at the horrors she walks out. She has no other choice but to agree to the arranged marriage with a man old enough to be her father. At least she can keep her baby. It’s quite the culture shock.
What follows is Elizabeth’s life in the country with her new family. Her husband drinks and keeps her on a tight leash but was probably no better or worse than many men those days. Also, we are introduced to her husband’s cousin and neighbor, Mossy, whom he hates. Mossy, a decent, respected, (and very attractive) man falls in love with Elizabeth at first sight. Elizabeth is not similarly affected.
Elizabeth has her baby and we pick up the story 6 years hence and we see that Elizabeth has had a child with her husband. She has become a hardworking and loving and loved mother to the girls, except one, who is hostile and never accepts her. We also see that she is enduring a life of boring drudgery but seems to have largely come to terms with it. And always we have attractive Mossy lurking in the background.
One day, she and her wise older friend Tilly go to Dublin with a group for a treat. There she coincidentally meets the cad who is the father of her 6-year-old child and has words with him. She is spotted by one of the party who tells her husband what they think they saw. He is a jealous drunk, and in his rage, he rapes her almost in front of the children. And things continue to disintegrate. (spoilers)
The Drama comes thick and fast with bad behavior on the part of our heroine, more abuse, a scary accident, a tragic accident, homicide, and lots of remorse on the part of several people, a courtroom trial, and another young teen in terrible trouble. And Mossy is always there in the background ready to help and support. In addition to the bad stuff, we also have a joyful recovery, reconciliation, and hope for change and growth. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when(and this is a big spoiler)
Elizabeth goes to the local priest about her pregnant daughter.
“ … If she’s in trouble, I…”
“No, she’s not in trouble. She’s pregnant.”
“Well if you’re looking for my help…”
“ No, I’m not, Canon. I knew you would want to help, and I just want to reassure you that we can manage by ourselves. I just wanted to be the first to let you know.”
The almost 3 1/2 hour 4 part series ends most satisfyingly and happily. Though we know Elizabeth will not have an easy life, it is a life she freely chooses. There will be struggles but there will be happiness and fulfillment as well. For me, it measured up to the glowing reviews.
May 13, 2022