I have long been a fan of the British TV series The Darling Buds of May with a very young Catherine Zeta Jones. I love the vibrancy of the characters, the obsession with food and the easy pace of life in the English country side. It seems idyllic, peaceful and full of fun and good humour…. if perhaps a little on the sexist side, it is set in post WWII England so I guess that’s how things were. I’ve always taken note of the “based on books by H.E. Bates” acknowledgement at the start and thought I must get around to reading these someday.
Well that someday was this week. I read two of them, the first of the series, The Darling Buds of May, and the third, A Breath of French Air. It doesn’t matter that one was missing in between them, they pretty much stand alone, though starting with the first would help establish the characters and background before moving on to the rest. The books a very short (about 120 pages) and can easily be read in a couple of days. But I must say, the show was better…. by a long way!
It was kind of like reading a script of the show (which was obviously very closely based on the books, especially the first one) with most of what’s said on screen being word for word the same as the book. And because I know them so well I could skim read a lot of these books and not lose anything. What was missing from the books was any sort of character development or scene description for the most part. Or if it was there it was scant and uninspiring. The show on the other hand is rich and full with perfect (or should I say perfeck) casting and vibrant settings. Without having this already in my head the books would have been as dull as ditchwater (or is it dishwater, I never know?).
I read a bit about H. E. Bates too. Apparently up until the late 1950s he wrote non-fiction war stories and then suddenly made the somewhat dramatic change to fiction with these light and breezy little stories. I think he should have stuck to writing about the war, except then the TV show would not have been made either and that really would be a shame. I’m so glad someone saw the potential in these stories for the makings of a great on screen series. So on that note, I would recommend getting yourself a copy of the show and not bothering with the books. Enjoy them on the couch on a cold and wet day (like we’re having here this week), but don’t blame me if you feel like a roast dinner or breakfast fry up afterwards!
Check out my facebook page.