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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, October 02, 2006

the re-emptied nest and Victoriana

This past weekend saw the moving-out of Robin. She has found a one-bedroom apartment just down the hill on 2nd Street--two buildings away from the apartment we all lived in back in 1985-86. She has a suite facing south across the harbor to the city, just as we had back then. So to be in that apartment and look out is nostalgic--and also very beautiful, one of the great views in Vancouver, available in an old, woodframe, low-rent apartment building.

So that occupied us. Kimmie, saddened by this (second) departure of her daughter (who is now 25), has been throwing herself into the work of helping with the move, and now into transforming Robin's old bedroom back into the sewing-room it was before Robin returned to it last year. While I read in the livingroom yesterday, Kimmie thumped up and down the stairs, lugging up our central-vacuum hose and buckets of water with ammonia to clean and scrub the vacated room. Then she started ferrying cardboard boxes of stuff from the basement room where she now has her sewing-room. Her capacity for work is extraordinary.

In the evenings we've been watching (again, after a gap of a couple of years) the 1974 British TV production of The Pallisers, a 24-part miniseries based on the 19th-century Palliser novels by Anthony Trollope. The show, adapted by Simon Raven, stars Susan Hampshire and Philip Latham. I remember first watching this on TV in the mid-70s. I enjoyed it quite well then, and more when I saw it a few years ago; but now I (and Kimmie) find ourselves liking it even more.

The story takes place among the social and political elite of English society at the zenith of the Victorian era (Trollope died in 1882). While I admire and enjoy Trollope's flair in dealing with the political issues of the day and people's strong attitudes toward them, what really commands my attention now is his depiction of character, and especially his portrayals of women and their relationships with men in that period. I find that he cracks my preconceived ideas about Victorian England, and, like other excellent writers of the period, such as Thomas Hardy, shows people to be just the same then as they are now--the universal appeal of the classic.

In short, his fame is deserved--even though I haven't read any of his actual books, only seen the TV show. But it's very good. More on this later perhaps.



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