Valentines day may be over but romance never ends—this statement is especially true if you are an ardent lover of BBC Victorian serials, like me.
I’ve been into this genre for half my life. As a voracious reader at a young age, I was easily entranced with Charlotte Bronte’s description of Jane Eyre’s desires for human companionship; and was impressed with Jane Austin’s minutiae details pertaining to the subtle courtship between both Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth.
The big question is: Are books better than movies? I can candidly reply that it depends on the book and it depends on the movie.
I compiled a list of my favorite romantic Victorian movies and shows for you all to peruse. It’s a hot medley of old and new flix coupled in with some beloved classics. Enjoy (or not. it’s up to you)!
1.) North & South
Initially, my close friend Jill tried to get me into the first episode (2005 version not the Patrick Stewart one) but I fell fast asleep after the first 5 minutes. She also had a pet white rat and the sheer thought of this nasty little varmint being in close proximity of me scared me into a deep slumber. Jill’s heart broke in two since I slept like a log. Since she’s a good friend, I wanted to redeem myself in her eyes so I decided to watch the acclaimed show again, but in private.
So I watched it all the way through, and didn’t even yawn. It was really good and deeply enthralling. I wanted this show to never end; four episodes is not enough. Richard Armitage played Mill owner & Magistrate John Thornton so convincingly that you really root for his character’s business and frail love life to endure. He’s also really easy on the eyes and has a velvety, baritone voice. Swoon!
This is my favorite BBC show/movie of all time. This serial beats the book, hands down.
2.) Pride and Prejudice
So I read the book, watched the Colin Firth version, and own the 2006 version starring Kiera Knightly. Guess which is my favorite version? It’s not the book since Austin dragged certain scenes to out. It’s definitely not the Colin Firth version since I wasn’t impressed with the chemistry between him and Jennifer Ehle (even though they dated in real life). I’m head over heels in love with the 2006 movie version starring Mathew McFayden and Kiera Knightley.
The music, cinematography, acting and romance was full of verve. Each scene seamlessly bled to the next and the love/hate relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth was strong. Their faces and hand gestures were heavily nuanced for my pleasure. Strong chemistry was found in subtle body language.
Say what you will of Keira Knightley, but this is my favorite version of all time.
3.) Jane Eyre
The book wins. I watched the Charlotte Gainsbourgh version and the 2006 version with Toby Stephens years back, and even though the 2006 mini series was extremely well done, the book can’t be topped. Charlotte Bronte is a wordsmith and her ongoing inner dialogue for Jane was immense. I couldn’t put the book down and my heart wept for poor Jane. She was deprived of human affection and had to keep her desires bottled in.
After reading this book, I wanted to read Bronte’s other novels but, sadly, they are hard to find. Little known fact, some say that North & South was based on Bronte’s novel Shirley.
This is my favorite Jane Austin novel. Maybe I should also read Sense and Sensibility, and Emma, before I promulgate my adoration for this novel but I really didn’t like the movie versions. It was so bad that it made me not want to read a word from those novels.
Persuasion is about two lovers who were forced apart due to class, and family. The entire book is full of romantic tension, uncertainty and awkward moments. I thrived on the awkward encounters since that’s something we can all relate to. I never watched the 2007 version starring Sally Hawkins, but I do love the 1995 version. I am at an impasse between the book or the movie being better. Most likely, the book is much better because you get more background information about the protagonists and really envision the tension between Anne and Frederick.
5.) Little Dorrit
I love, love, LOVE it. Mathew McFayden and Claire Foy are very convincing as Arthur and Amy. There’s around 14 episodes and a huge mystery that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. I recently downloaded the e-book and was impressed with Charles Dickins eye for detail. From what I read so far, what I can attest is that his words are like Monet and Picasso’s paintings. Beautiful, flowing, narration.
6.) Northanger Abbey
I watched the movie and thought it was really sweet. It’s Gothic romance with a twist at the end. I haven’t read the book so I can say which is better. But I will say that the movie has a slow start but a fast build-up. You will not get bored, I assure you. I only watched the newer version so I can’t state if the older versions are good or not. I guess you have to watch all versions on your own time.
7.) Mansfield Park
As soon as you watch the movie, you really want Billie Piper’s character, Fanny, to be with Edmund. The book portrays a strong contrast between how Fanny is viewed within her adopted family than with the movie. The movie skips over the fact that Fanny is often ignored by most family members and is perceived as a financial burden. The book burdens the reader with Fanny’s undisclosed desires and I am sure its’ enraptures readers with the lively drama that ensues.
8.) Wuthering Heights
I tried to read the book but the third person narration bored me to tears. I will try again in the near future but, for now, the movie version starring Tom Hardy was breath-taking. Heathcliff is one messed up man. He’s hated by most people due to his murky background and becomes hated by all due to his deceit. His love for Catherine is his only redeeming quality and, wow, it’s passionate.
Watch the movie on Netflix if you have the time. And if you have the patience (which I wish I have) read the book and let me know how it goes.
9.) Wives & Daughters
I never read the book but the mini series was entertaining. It’s not as good as “North and South” but it’s definitely quick paced. Elizabeth Gaskell never finished the book due to her untimely death but the BBC version ties up loose ends. Molly Gibson gets her happy ending, in spite of the plethora of relational deaths she had to endure.
Have you read or seen any of these shows/movies? Do you agree or disagree with this list? Comment below!