Earlier this summer, I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s lovely long novel Wives and Daughters (you can read my review of it here.) In the comments, several of you told me that I would enjoy the BBC adaptation of it, so when I had a sick day last week, I got in bed with my knitting and watched the entire thing.
All I can say is: you were right. This four-part adaptation, written by Andrew Davies (of course) and directed by Nicholas Renton, was pitch-perfect in every respect. The casting was wonderful, from Justine Waddell as the steadfast Molly Gibson to Keeley Hawes as the changeable Cynthia Kirkpatrick, Francesca Annis as Clare, Tom Hollander as Osborne Hamley, and — honestly — every other character as well. The settings were perfect, showing off the slight differences in social class that make such a difference in the book. The writing did justice to every scene, and the dialogue was straight from the book. None of the characters were turned into caricatures; everyone was allowed to be rounded and complex.
One thing I should point out in particular: Michael Gambon, as Squire Hamley, is such a brilliant actor that he almost threw the entire adaptation off balance. I am of the opinion that truly great actors don’t “steal” scenes, they take a whole part, polish it, and make it better even for actors who can’t match their talent. But Gambon’s performance was so brilliant, the squire’s pain so real, that he threatened to be more important than any of Molly’s small affairs (as I am sure Molly would have agreed, herself!) This isn’t a criticism. I was just interested in the way it appeared to me in this adaptation, which I enjoyed every minute of. Thanks for all the recommendations, everyone!