I don't think I shall ever know how I managed to remember enough of the plots and characters of Macbeth, Emma, Great Expectations, 12th Night and all those other books and plays that I studied in order to pass my English Lit 'O' level and English 'A' level - let alone all the poetry by Milton, Wordsworth, Keats et al. I suppose reading each one several times in quick succession, discussing them in class and writing essays about them dunned them into the soggy mass of my brain in just sufficient detail for me to be able to convince the examiners that I merited a pass mark. Nowadays I read a book, put it down and two weeks or even two days later I have forgotten what it is about. Just occasionally I come across a book that does manage to stay in my memory, even if only vaguely. Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks, is one such. Although I have read it several times, I would have been hard pressed to describe the plot in anything other than broad brush strokes and could probably recall the names of none of the characters. All the same, I consider it to be one of the best books I have ever read and a copy rests on my bookshelf alongside some of my other "best" books. It was therefore of considerable interest to me to read that the BBC were to show a television adaptation of the book.
This, it transpired, would be in two 90-minute episodes, the first of which was last Sunday. We were unwilling to stay glued to the TV screen until 10.30pm so I recorded the programme. During the week the Old Bat and I were slightly concerned to read that the programme had been the subject of quite a few complaints. A few of these were about the main female actress appearing topless but most were about inaudible speech. We wondered just how much we would enjoy watching the programme, or even if we would manage to sit through it all. We agreed that we had to watch it before the second episode is broadcast this evening in order to decide if that will be worth recording.
So perhaps it was not really necessary for Clémence Poésy to bare as much as she did although to my mind those scenes demonstrated the intensity of the love between Isabelle and Stephen and I make no complaint. (The programme is, after all, screened after the 9.00pm watershed.) Nor have I any complaint about the volume of the diction. When the characters are speaking in whispers it adds to the realism of those scenes - and even I heard and understood 90% of the so-called muttering. No, I have no complaint about gratuitous nudity or inaudible diction. I did think the drama moved rather slowly at times with Stephen and Isabelle seeming to spend an inordinate amount of time gazing across crowded rooms at each other - well, maybe not really crowded rooms, but in places where other people were about. According to one critic, tonight's concluding episode speeds up dramatically. I shall look forward to watching it - and maybe I will take the book to France next week to read yet again.