Tipping the Velvet Underground

Tipping the Velvet - Sarah WatersJust finished reading Sarah Waters‘ 1998 novel Tipping the Velvet. A real page-turner. In part for me because I was I think as blind-sided as Nan King was at Kitty Buttler’s betrayal-liaison with Walter Bliss and expected a resolution and reunion between the two with each subsequent chapter before belatedly resigning myself against this. There was a happy romantic ending – a number indeed – but not telling between whom as do not want to spoil for those who are not familiar with it! – a real tear-jerker the ending was too following on the emotional rollercoaster of Nancy after Kitty.

I now want to watch the BBC and Andrew Davies 2002 adaptation (which also was the cover of the version of the book I read so Rachael Stirling and Keeley Hawes were already indelibly imprinted in my imagination as Nan and Kitty) – and I want to seek out everything else on TV and in print from Sarah Waters such as Fingersmith and Affinity and am awaiting the 2011 Richard Laxton adaptation of The Night Watch with eager anticipation.

Tipping the Velvet TV cast photo

Though the ending was romantically a happy one the politics of the book made me a bit rueful. Not the sexual and equality politics – there have been significant developments in Britain since the time of its setting in the late 19th Century – rather the labour and economic politics of the book as exemplified by the Florence Banner character and her brother Ralph.

Sarah WatersAt this time socialism was still a hopeful dream of working people. The 20th Century saw it become a nightmare with the Capitalism it sought to replace flourishing and stronger than ever come the end of the 20th Century. But here we are in 2011 with Free Market Capitalism itself now dead following its demise in the 2008 financial crisis and what to fill the vacuum? A pauperization of the middle-classes now seems in place and the Karl Marx observation that

Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks

remains as pertinent as ever. Only social democracy can perhaps save us now but will the crony capitalists relinquish their reigns – they have prevailed for an awfully long time.

However lest you have not read this book and now thinking it a dry political tract don’t let my tangential musings mislead, the political and economic travails of working people is but a part of this rich and many layered story. The wilful Victorian love-child of Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte. And then some!

Women In Love – Episode Two

Episode Two begins with a brutal scene between a British and German soldier in a World War I trench and does not dwell on that war much beyond that – its horror has been starkly encapsulated in that one act of kill or be killed.

Women In Love then returns to the peace if a broken and haunted peace.

Father and daughter BBC adaptationThe idealism of the first episode replaced with dreams broken yet accommodated – for all of the main characters the Brangwen sisters themselves and Gerald Crich (the brutal and brutalised soldier) and Rupert Birkin.

Their hearts and minds are stripped even more naked in this ending episode. Gudrun Brangwen who gave the appearance at least of frivolity in the first episode deepened considerably in this second and I thought Rosamund Pike who played her turned in the most impressive of all the performances.

Women In Love’s preoccupations of love and sex, the purpose of art and how we should live our life all felt very modern and I had to remind myself that DH Lawrence wrote this story the best part of a century ago.  I am glad that the BBC brought it to wider attention.

Women in Love – Episode One

BBC 4 RemakeI have just watched the first episode of the Company Pictures production for BBC 4 the D.H. Lawrence adaptation ‘Women In Love‘ – an adaptation not just of the book of the same name but its prequel The Rainbow.

Women In Love was also made into a film by Ken Russell in 1969 but unseen by me like the novels are unread so this then was my first introduction to its saga of the Brangwen sisters.

Set in the first decades of the 19th Century this is a tale of passions bridled and unbridled, in marriage and out, amidst science and religion colliding – industrial technological progress welcome and unwelcome.  All unfolded in a whirl quickly bringing the first ninety minute episode to its close.

Hermione Ruddice played by Olivia Grant

I thought the casting was impressive throughout and I particularly enjoyed Rachael Stirling as Ursula Brangwen, Rory Kinnear as Rupert Birkin, Joseph Mawle as Gerald Crich and Olivia Grant as Hermione Roddice.

I am looking forward the second and concluding episode aired later this week – in these days of time-shifted programming I am not going to list particular dates and times save to say it will be aired a number of times on BBC 4 and its HD channel along with the web courtesy of the BBC iPlayer

And yet more books that I will have to add to my reading list!