TV Netflix Series When Calls the Heart vs Audiobook (Women of the West series Book 11) by Janette Oke #historicalfiction

TV Netflix Series vs Audiobook

The reason you should never say never is because you’ll invariably end up doing it.

You can usually tell (sight unseen) a Hallmark production by the music and the fairytale romance following. I’m not the Hallmark watcher in this family—it’s the CE—and Netflix knows his Hallmark proclivity from the stats that apparently note his selections pretty closely. But this one caught my attention, too, and we’ve been binge-watching again. When I saw that it was originally a Canadian author’s western historical series, I had to go looking for it at my local library to see what they had. They had one audiobook (!!) as well as a number of ebooks and you know I will choose the audiobook. What I discovered was a TV Netflix series loosely based on a bestselling series originally written by author Janette Oke as western religious fiction. 

Netflix Series

Season 2-When Calls the HeartWhen Calls the Heart is a Canadian-American television drama series, one of many we’ve watched and enjoyed lately. It was inspired by Janette Oke’s book from her Canadian West series. Developed by Michael Landon Jr, the series began on the Hallmark Channel in the US on January 11, 2014.

Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) is a young teacher from a wealthy family anxious to follow the calling of her heart to teach. She finds herself in a classroom in Coal Valley, a coal-mining town in Western Canada.

The life is tough enough without the mine-disaster that kills Abigail Stanton’s (Lori Loughlin) husband and her only son, along with 45 other miners in an explosion. Trying to get on with their lives, they rename the town Hope Valley. (As most know, Loughlin was involved in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal and sentenced to two months, her husband five. She was removed from the series in Season 6.)

Universally appealing, gorgeous costumes, themes of loss, love, and growth, redemption. Was supposed to be filmed in Colorado but moved instead to Vancouver, BC. The program creator, Michael Landon Jr does a superior job with his storytelling, pushing engagement.

The series became available internationally on Netflix in August 2017 but will be removed January 24, 2021.

Audiobook-Original Print Series

A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette OkeA Gown of Spanish Lace: Women of the West, Book 11 (Abridged)
Ariana loves her life as a schoolteacher in a little frontier town. But one evening after classes are done and she prepares to hurry home, her life changes in an instant when a band of rough outlaws abduct her and take her far away from all she has ever known. Trapped in a small shack, Ariana prays and waits, her emotions swinging between terror and boredom as days stretch into weeks. Still, the outlaws refuse to tell her why they’ve taken her or what they plan to do.

Then the boss’ son appears in the doorway of her cabin. He seems different from the others, but can she trust him? Will she ever again see her mother and father, the couple who lovingly adopted her and raised her as their own? Will she ever wear the beautiful wedding dress so carefully saved for her – her one remaining link to her birth parents?

My Thoughts

First, I was unhappy the audiobook was an abridged version. Elizabeth is a schoolteacher in the northwestern territories and in a rather weak plot device to explain her kidnapping, is abducted and taken far away. She is treated as a hostage which gradually relaxes weeks later when the “boss’ son” suddenly takes over her care. In the backstory, it is explained she was adopted after her birth parents were killed in a wagon train raid. Her one remaining link to her birth mother—a wedding dress.

Okay, the son of outlaws—the one who “didn’t fit” (not a beautiful Canadian Monty, resplendent in his iconic uniform). Ariana is deeply religious, praying heavily first to live, then to see her adopted parents, home, and school again. She gradually appears to have feelings for Laramie as he tends to loosen the bonds.

Actually a pretty tame bunch of outlaws, almost caricatures (at least around Ariana—could have been MUCH worse) and having raised Laramie that he could be so different.

It could happen.

There was a heavily religious theme and that of Ariana gradually pulling Laramie into Christianity, amid themes of faith, trust, and forgiveness. Maybe because I had the abridged version, so much detail was missing. The plot line progressed at a nice pace (abridged…remember?), but there were elements of implausibility. Otherwise, very sweet, very clean. Not sure I could start back at Seasons of the Heart, Book 1 though.

Overall Impression

Mercy! At least this one isn’t the shocker that Virgin River turned out to be for me. If anything, it swung in the reverse, a squeaky clean version of western frontier life. But I must vote for the Hallmark version. I love the Mounties (and Jack—why did he have to leave?) Oh…and Elizabeth. Actually, I much prefer the characters in the Hallmark version. Elizabeth (Ariana) is a level-headed intelligent woman extolling moral lessons on her students (Christian principles from the Oke published series without being preachy).

There are two or three “bad” guys who gradually turn to the “good” side. The mining town cleans up to become a lumber (sawmill) town, and as always, there are the busy-body citizens—who can sometimes do good as well.

The storyline is engaging and entertaining, although I’ve noticed a slight change from possible realistic period costumes and hairstyles to dresses of décolleté and hair worn down in curls. (Difficult without a curling iron.) It is a time of change, the turn of the Century, and the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps also a time of some societal confusion, women just beginning to become a force of nature, as well as nurture.

The first seven seasons on Netflix will go bye-bye in January. Season 8 debuts in February on…yeah, the Hallmark Channel. We’ll wait until it hits Netflix.

Book Details

Genre: Western Religious Fiction, Religious Historical Fiction, Christian Westerns
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
ASIN: B005E87WUY
Print Length: 260 pages
Listening Length: 3 hrs 13 mins (Abridged version)
Narrator: Aimee Lilly
Audible Release: April 15, 2016
Publication Date: August 1, 2006
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: A Gown of Spanish Lace [Amazon]

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Janette Oke - authorThe Author: Janette Oke (née Steeves) was born on February 18, 1935 to Fred and Amy Steeves in the family’s log house near Champion, Alberta. Janette Oke pioneered inspirational fiction and is the leading author in the category today. She received the 1992 President’s Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for her significant contribution to Christian fiction, and has been awarded the coveted Gold Medallion Award for fiction. Janette and her husband, Edward, have four grown children and nine grandchildren and make their home in Canada. Most lately she has collaborated on a series with her daughter Laurel Oke Logan. Bethany Fellowship Inc. (now Bethany House) has been Oke’s benefactor and says of Oke, “Oke’s pioneering influence on Christian historical fiction, and Christian fiction as a whole, has lifted her to near-legendary status.”

The Narrator: Aimee Lilly has narrated over 200 audiobooks in a wide variety of genres, most of them for Oasis Audio, including 100 books in the Boxcar Children series. An Earphones Award winner, she has also been nominated for an Audie Award, an Independent Audiobook Award, and a Voice Arts Award.

©2021 V Williams

Info sources: Wikipedia, Hallmark Channel

TV Netflix Series vs Audiobook – Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (The Midwife Trilogy #1) by Jennifer Worth

A True Story of the East End in the 1950s

Netflix vs Audiobook - Call the Midwife

Book Blurb:

Call the Midwife’ is a most extraordinary book and should be required reading of all students of midwifery, nursing, sociology and modern history. It tells of the experiences of a young trainee midwife in the East End of London in the 1950’s and is a graphic portrayal of the quite appalling conditions that the East Enders endured.

My Review:

If you ever feel badly about your childhood, tune into either the Netflix series or the audiobook of Call the Widwife by Jennifer Worth.  At least we had an outhouse—wasps in the summer, black widows otherwise. To hear the deplorable conditions of the East End of London in the 50s, however, is unimaginable. The conditions were horrid. The TV series gives you glimpses, and by the glimpses, I mean also the smells.

The Netflix Series

We discovered this series and immediately set about binge watching. We blazed through the first three episodes and beyond. Inspired by the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End, the series stays remarkably true to the original trilogy. However, the series took on a life of its own and grew far beyond the original characters into ten episodes with eleven being in the offing and eight, hour long episodes each. How many of those on Netflix? Actually, Season nine isn’t scheduled until 2021.

The show is, of course, a work of fiction, although Worth’s daughters Suzannah Hart and Juliette Walton loves that the performance of Jessica Raine (as Jenny)was terribly anxious that we should be happy with her performance and I think she’s got it just right.” Many of the characters and situations early on were borrowed from the memoirs.

It is Vanessa Redgrave, herself an icon, who narrated three series and then appeared on screen.

It’s eye-opening watching Jenny Lee learn about the slums of postwar Poplar. The characters of Sister Julienne, Cynthia, Chummy, Sister Evangelina, and Sister Monica Joan (among others) are introduced early and quickly claim a place in your heart—cast so exquisitely, and very true to what Worth’s daughters remember. Even the handyman Fred and all his shenanigans are recounted with relish.

The real life Nonnatus House was moved to Birmingham during the 70s. Jennifer Worth died in 2011 at the age of 75. The first episode aired in 2012.

The Audiobook

I’ll admit to being thrown just a bit starting the audiobook, wherein there was a prologue not introduced to the first BBC series episode. Not to fear—it quickly catches up and proceeds with memories, characters, and stories played so well in the TV series that it was easy to remember the episode and circumstance.

What I enjoyed in the audiobook were the jumps into some retrospection of the characters. We get a bit of backstory of the nuns and how they came to be midwives at the Nonnatus House.

Remarkable stories, as are some of the recreations of the accounts of several of the more difficult deliveries, especially as Jenny is being indoctrinated into the system of the House, the nuns, and the other midwives. Talk about heroes. Absolutely jaw-dropping tales of the 50s in London, the men, the women prior to any kind of birth control, the lack of sanitary conditions, clean and accessible water and toilets, and the unfortunate back alley remedy of unwanted pregnancy.

A powerful book relayed in realistic conversational tones of an amazing story, mesmerizing, full of heart and emotion, at times euphorically happy and triumphant and others tragically bewildered or heartbroken.

Overall Impression

If this isn’t a novel you’ve already discovered, I certainly recommend the audiobook. If you have Netflix available and haven’t already binge watched—check it out. Either way, this is a win-win.

Book Details:

Genre: Biography
Publisher:  Audible Audio

  • ASIN: B01N8XUV0Y
  •  Print Length: 352 pages

Listening Length: 12 hrs 1 min
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Publication Date: September 10, 2012
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)

Title Link: Call the Midwife [Amazon]
 

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Jennifer Worth - authorThe Author (Goodreads): [Jennifer] Worth, born Jennifer Lee while her parents were on holiday in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, was raised in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. After leaving school at the age of 14, she learned shorthand and typing and became the secretary to the head of Dr Challoner’s Grammar School. She then trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and moved to London to receive training to become a midwife.

Lee was hired as a staff nurse at the London Hospital in Whitechapel in the early 1950s. With the Sisters of St John the Divine, an Anglican community of nuns, she worked to aid the poor. She was then a ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in Bloomsbury, and later at the Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead.

She married the artist Philip Worth in 1963, and they had two daughters.

Worth retired from nursing in 1973 to pursue her musical interests. In 1974, she received a licentiate of the London College of Music, where she taught piano and singing. She obtained a fellowship in 1984. She performed as a soloist and with choirs throughout Britain and Europe.

She later began writing, and her first volume of memoirs, ‘Call the Midwife’, was published in 2002. The book became a bestseller when it was reissued in 2007. ‘Shadows of the Workhouse’ (2005; reissued 2008) and ‘Farewell to the East End’ (2009) also became bestsellers. The trilogy sold almost a million copies in the UK alone. In a fourth volume of memoirs ‘In the Midst of Life’, published in 2010, Worth reflects on her later experiences caring for the terminally ill.

Worth was highly critical of Mike Leigh’s 2004 film Vera Drake, for depicting the consequences of illegal abortions unrealistically. She argued that the method shown in the movie, far from being fairly quick and painless, was in fact almost invariably fatal to the mother.

Worth died on 31 May 2011, having been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus earlier in the year.

A television series, Call the Midwife, based on her books, began broadcasting on BBC One on 15 January 2012.

The Narrator: Nicola Barber is an Audie Award-winning narrator whose voice can be heard in television and radio commercials and popular video games such as World of Warcraft. Nicola is also an Audie nominee in the Solo Female Narration category for her work on Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. –This text refers to the audioCD edition.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Attribution: Worth’s personal information from interview with her daughters at Radio Times