My appetite for books takes me in many directions and recently that has been in the direction of Persephone Books with its charming collection of reprints – neglected novels mostly from the middle of the twentieth century – beautifully presented paper-backs.
My first read was” Family Roundabout” by Richard Crompton, well known for her Just William stories. Set between the two wars it tells the story of two families and their contrasting matriarchs, one domineering and the other gentle. I thoroughly enjoy drifting back into that era, knowing that the writer has lived it, that the details are accurate and not imagined and researched.
Then came “The Making of a Marchioness” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden. First published in 1901 it has now been chosen by ITV as a suitable TV series. And herein lies my problem. They have renamed it The Making of a Lady. Why ? Why ? Why? It is so disrespectful of the author.
As I understand it to be a Marchioness you have to the wife of a Marquess, one step down from a Duke and Duchess, whereas a lady can mean many things. For all you know I am a lady – I know which knife and spoon to use, I can conduct myself decorously and make polite conversation about safe topics like the weather when the mood takes me. So you could call me a lady.
I can be a lady without belonging to the British nobility and using the title Lady, which even then doesn’t indicate to which rank I belong.
In this novel, by her conduct, the heroine is already a lady, poor but skilled in all the social graces.. To be made into a Marchioness she has to meet a Marquess, attract his attention and marry him, which is the basis of the story. She is becoming a Marchioness, not a lady.
So I can’t help being cynical and saying oh my, what a big word is Marchioness, much too big for the export market to cope with. We can’t use a word the non-Brits won’t understand . Let’s just make the title meaningless instead.
There is much about the movie and TV world which puzzles me, such as the remakes of perfectly good shows. Take the Wallander series with Kenneth Branagh as an example. If you haven’t read the Henning Mankell books or seen the original TV shows with sub-titles it’s a perfectly nice, pretty little series, but it is not a patch on the original. Brannagh’s stubble doesn’t make up for the grittiness of the original. And apart from re-writing story lines they have introduced a new character called Scenery so that we can have lengthy views of beautiful scenery to pad out the series. It’s just another British cop show with a bigger budget. Take out the name Wallander and call him Smith or Jones and you wouldn’t even know it was a Danish story. I really am cheesed off !
And the dramatic Danish Dragon Tattoo trilogy – Daniel Craig might be gorgeous but in my humble opinion the original sub-titled films were better – and so it goes on. No doubt “The Bridge” will be the next in line for conversion. They’ve already destroyed “The Killing” by transferring it over to New York.
Please, TV-land, give up the re-hashing and make your shows from original books or stories as the BBC did with its adaptation of P.D.James’ “Death in Holy Orders” and “The Murder Room”. They were a while ago now but when things are well done you don’t forget them.