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Don Quixote

One More Parade

In 2008, I went on a two-week European motorcycle holiday. I had bought and was saving an enormously thick book for the occasion: Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End.

I read it across Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, on the ferry home, and I was still reading it a couple of weeks later. It was THICK. And I loved it.

When I learned at the start of this year that the BBC was putting on a television version, I was thrilled. Partly because it was written by Tom Stoppard, partly because I hoped it would bring the book wider readership (especially since Benedict Cumberbatch was involved), but mostly because I felt myself in a position of superiority, having read the book already, and looked forward to telling people all about it.

The long-awaited first episode aired on Friday. I enjoyed it, but I already knew the story, so I struggled less to keep up with the who, what, when and why than, er, every reviewer I've read so far.

(In summary: Christopher Tietjens, man of honour, has a poisonous wife who openly carries on with other men and gets away with it. Meanwhile, Chrissie does no more than glance at another woman, but this is enough to invoke massive prewar scandal and drag everyone's name through the mud.)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock left me cold, but blimey! he's good in this, especially when staring with bravely suppressed emotion at a horse or small boy. My one complaint is that he's not stodgy enough, in either the physical or character sense.

It helps that I love the character of Tietjens (callmemadam compared him to Guy Crouchback in Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy). My very favourite character, Christopher's brother Mark (who has been having an affair for donkeys' years, but nobody cares because she's French), has not appeared yet, but I look forward to Rupert Everett's portrayal.

Very much looking forward to the next instalment. It is making me want to re-read the tetralogy, but that would mean taking a month off from reading anything else...
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Wasn't Mark there in the carriage right at the start?

I agree that Cumberbatch is doing brilliantly as Tietjens, but I'm quite disappointed that they've put it all in chronological order rather than the fractured, flashbacky tangle that the books are. Are reviewers really confused? Oh dear!

I've only read the first 3 books, more because that's what's available via Gutenberg than because Ford wished he hadn't published part 4. Should I read it would you say? I really like the end point of book 3.
I had no idea there was any controversy about the last one, which I liked very much, until I read Julian Barnes on the novel today - definitely read!

Must have missed Mark when my weekend guest arrived about a minute into the episode.