Friday, 5 February 2010

Cornish cornucopia #1 : The camomile lawn (DVD)

I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response to my post last week about my plans to read plenty of Cornish books this year, so thank you to everyone for your suggestions. Fleurfisher has put together a wonderful list of ideas giving me even more inspiration, and I've made a list in a notebook of the titles that I definitely want to read. I've read quite a lot of Cornish books already, so at some point I think I will make a list of those for "completeness" sake. I am so very excited about it that I think there will be posts on this theme far more regularly than once a month, perhaps even once a week in the next nine weeks running up to Easter, which I am spending in the county.

I decided to kick off with a film rather than a book. I found a good long list of films made in the county, some of which I'd seen (Saving Grace, Ladies in Lavender, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn), some which didn't particularly appeal (Straw dogs, Johnny English), some which are completely out of print, and some which are on the "wish-list" of films I'd like to see: Amy Foster, Next of Kin, Johnny Frenchman. I have long been a fan of the Wycliffe tv series, and wish that they would bring them out on DVD, and I'm wondering about getting hold of Doc Martin, since that was partly filmed in Port Isaac which is very close to where we will be staying at Easter.

A trip to the library enabled me to borrow The camomile lawn, which is an adaption of the book by the same name by Mary Wesley. It was originally a television drama, and for my £1.25 rental fee I got 264 minutes of watching. It's been a while since I've read the book so I can't comment on how faithful the adaption is, but it was most enjoyable. Set mainly in Cornwall, on and after the eve of the Second World War, the drama tells the story of the Cuthbertson family - an aunt, uncle, cousins and an orphan, and some of their neighbours and how they are affected by the arrival of the war. They are all from the upper middle class, and from the richer section of society. Some of the book is set in London, reflecting their wartime experiences. There is love, drama, relationships and above all the lifechanging experience of living through the Second World War.

If I'm honest, the coastal scenery could have been anywhere, and not specifically Cornwall, although it was filmed in Veryan and Portloe (admittedly areas that I am not familiar with). But the period detail, especially in the parts filmed in London is fantastic - if you like wartime dramas then this is also one for you. The excellent cast includes Felicity Kendal and Paul Eddington (familiar from The Good Life, although here they are married rather than neighbours), Tara Fitzgerald (another favourite of mine), and Jennifer Ehle.

I'm not sure which of Mary Wesley's novels are set in Cornwall, but I have discovered that she wrote a book called Part of the scenery, which is about the Westcountry region and her life, and have reserved this at the library. More on that in due course I expect!

Anyway, do let me know what your favourite Cornish films and television are, I'd be fascinated to know if there is anything else that I'd like that I might have missed.


  1. A bit late again (!) but here goes:
    I really enjoyed The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith - maybe you've read this one. (See my post about it.) Have just started The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins though only the opening scene has been set in Cornwall so far and that was a bit too melodramatic for my taste. Much funnier were scenes with the cantankerous old uncle and his manservant in their ramshackle house.
    A Pair of Blue Eyes is also a must (See also John Sutherland's puzzle-solving about the cliff-top rescue scene.)and Thomas Hardy's beautiful poetry about love and the Cornish cliffs and the sea.
    And of course Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel and Vanishing Cornwall. I also enjoyed Margaret Forster's biography of DuMaurier and her life in Cornwall.

  2. Wow, now that you mentioned it, I do recognize Tara Fitzgerald. She looks so young there. Sounds like a great film though. I'll definitely look it up.

  3. It wasn't filmed in Cornwall unfortunately, but made in Hollywood but the film of Frenchman's Creek from the 40s is really good. I watched it at the weekend and it is a very faithful adaptation of the book. Reportedly Du Maurier didn't like it much but her husband did, but I think it's worth it for the non-Holmes pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce!

  4. Bookheaper - yes, I have most of those on my list!

    Mrs B - I really think you'd enjoy it - it's actually a t-v miniseries - 4 episodes.

    Roisin - where did you get hold of the film from? I'd love to see it but it's only available as import.

  5. The BBC series, Poldark, used to make me feel very homesick back in the 70s or 80s when we were living near Bristol. Whether a repeat viewing would stand up though is debatable.

    Doc Martin is worth seeing simply for the wonderful Port Isaac setting. Plot-wise it's a bit fluffy but perfectly watchable.

    There was a lovely Poirot that they filmed down around Fowey that has stuck in my memory but I don't remember the title. Wycliffe I always watched as the scenery was wonderful... these days I don't care to rewatch for sone unfathomable reason.

    I must see if our library has that copy of The Camomile Lawn dvd.

  6. Yay! My library has a copy of this DVD! Tara Fitzgerald looks incredibly young - I didn't recognize her until you mentioned her. And I really really love WWII-period dramas, so this sounds great for me. :)

  7. Cath - I'm not sure I'll get my partner watching Poldark, but I probably should. If you remember the Poirot, please let me know.

    Jenny - excellent! I think it really launched Fitzgerald's career, whereas Jenifer Ehle seems to have sunk without trace. Enjoy

  8. I love the Chamomile Lawn - I have only read the book and didn't know that you can get a DVD, I will be looking out for this!

  9. I watched this back in 2004, because I love Jennifer Ehle and Felicity Kendal - must revisit. My favourite Cornish film is Ladies in Lavender... but Cornish people tell me the accents aren't right. Having never lived anywhere with any great regional pride, I don't worry too much about those things!

  10. Doc Martin is excellent. It is based around a romance theme, on and off again, but also has agood humoured accurate depiction of some social issue in each episode. I loved it.

  11. Simon - I must re-watch Ladies in Lavendar. Don't suppose you have a copy?

    Merenia - I think I'm going to have to seek out Doc Martin prior to our holiday in Port Gaverne!

  12. The Camomile Lawn catches my eye whenever I see it in a bookshop, I didn't know it had been made into a movie! Hopefully, my library will get it in.

  13. Can I take this opportunity to post a related correction. In a comment on your original Cornish reading blog post I suggested that Cornwall was probably the English county with the greatest length of coastline, but I was wrong. I have just been surprised to read that this prize actually goes to the much derided county of Essex, which apparently has 350 miles of coast. I discovered this in a piece from today's Guardian by Robert Macfarlane, the English literature don and enthusiast for the great outdoors. He is well worth reading, though so far as I can recall he doesn't get as far as Cornwall in his fine book The Wild Places.

  14. I would love to read The Camomile Lawn at some point; it's been on my wishlist for ever.

    I'm also a fan of Jennifer Ehle and Tara Fitzgerald; the latter made a perfect Topaz in I Capture the Castle.

  15. Another shout for 'Doc Martin'. I watched all the series over a few weeks and boy did I want to go back to Cornwall badly! Port Isaac is prominent and the seaside and countryside of the area is a big feature in every episode. I love the theme music and I can't commend it enough. The only major gripe I have (a personal one) is too many animals being killed (in the film of course) and a few icky medical scenes. Be warned as it starts in the first episode. The wonderful Stephanie Cole is also a recurring character.

    Jennifer Ehle is currently in the States in a play called Mr and Mrs Fitch with none other than John Lithgow! Funny how you keep coming across things that you haven't thought of in years...

  16. I borrowed a copy of The Cammomile Lawn from my dvd shop last year and thought it quite good. It was so good to see Jennifer Ehle again - I loved her in Pride and Prejudice and haven't seen her in much since - have you?

    And I didn't realise Doc Marten was set around there too - a friend has lent me her copy and I haven't watched any of it ... yet :-)

  17. I do love Doc Martin, so I'll have to add my voice to all the recommendations for it above.

    I haven't been to Cornwall yet but it has long been on my list of places I want to visit. Until then, I'll have to content myself with little tv and movie escapes, as well as a few good books (though I think the only Cornwall-set books I've read are Rebecca, The Camomile Lawn and some fluffy novels by Sarah Mason).

  18. Darlene - I'm sure you'd enjoy Camomile Lawn.

    David - thanks for the info - very interesting.

    Claire - I think you'd enjoy it.

    Rochester Reader - ok, you're convincing me quite well :) What a coincidence.

    Samantha - I didn't think I'd seen Jenifer Ehle again in anything, so well remembered about P and P.

    Claire - ooh, you must go to Cornwall!


Do leave a comment - I love to hear from people who read my blog.