With my love of theatre, romance and reading anything that I can get my hands on, it’s no surprise that I am a huge fan of period drama. Therefore, it’s with great shame that I admit that I didn’t know who Catherine Cookson was. (Pretty much one of the most famous English writers of period drama, so I blame growing up in another country for my ignorance.)
Because I grew up watching “Little Women” around Christmas, I associate the tradition of the holiday season with cuddling up and watching an excellent period drama. Which is why I was delighted that Drama sent me a copy of the TV mini-series from the late 90s, “The Wingless Bird” based on the Cookson novel of the same name for review.
To quickly summarise: Shortly before Christmas 1913, we meet our heroine, Agnes Conway, the twenty-two-year-old manager of her feckless father’s adjoining sweet and tobacconist shops. There are dark secrets in her father’s past (obviously), and these come to light when Agnes’s younger sister becomes pregnant by notorious dockworker. Agnes falls in love “above her station”: to Charles Farrier, son of a local landowner, who outrages his own snotty family by proposing marriage. But it than transpires that his brother Reginald might have feelings for Agnes as well.
First I was tickled because someone dies of tuberculosis. A trademark of the period novel. But in all seriousness, I did really enjoy the film and my biggest criticism has nothing to do with the film per se. It’s this: for the first half of the film, characters kept talking about how plain and unattractive Agnes was.
I’m sorry, but the above photos are not the face of an ugly woman. I loved Agnes’ character. She was spunky, did what was right for her and had her early feminist leanings. I wish her sister’s character had been developed a bit more. I also wish that there had actually been more episodes. The last hour or so of the film seemed quite rushed and if it had been a longer series there would have been more time to develop the plot in the latter half.
Things I learned from watching “The Wingless Bird”: It used to once be illegal in England to marry your brother’s widow.
I’m glad that I’ve stumbled across Cookson films and I’d definitely watch others based on my “The Wingless Bird” experience. If you like me, have a thirst for period dramas that can’t be quenched, turn to Drama. Drama is a free to view channel launched two years ago that predominantly shows classic dramas, and is now set to launch a series of Catherine Cookson’s TV adaptations over the Christmas season. Yes! Done. If you try to get ahold of me over the next week, I’ll probably be glued to my TV.
This post was sponsored by Drama, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
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