Escape to the past: books and movies for when you need to get away

This one is about historical dramas. It’s also about love and loss. The reason all of that is on my mind this week is because of my grandparents.

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My grandfather died on Monday. I sat with him near the end, trying not to cry as I read the words in the hospice pamphlet the hospital dropped off when they brought him home. I knew it wouldn’t be long.

Not more than an hour after I left, my aunt called to say he’d slipped away.

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He wasn’t perfect. Grandpa was bipolar and had a complicated relationship with my dad. He was the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. (Stubbornly refusing to eat is why he died when he did.) His jokes could be odd and more than a little embarrassing in restaurants. He liked to lie in his stories–you could rarely believe half of what he said–and conversations frequently turned into a test.

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Of course, that isn’t the whole story.

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Grandpa was very sweet to me for all but the last nine months. He loved cars, even lending me the rest of the money I needed to buy one of my own. I know that he loved me and wanted, more than anything, for me to be happy. He was completely and utterly devoted to my grandmother.

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Who told us that she wanted to come back as a pelican because she liked to eat^

Grandma died a little over a year ago. They were married for 57 years and it’s hard to think of one without the other. While I’m glad Grandpa is no longer apart from her, I’m sad that I’ve lost all three of my grandparents in less than five years.

So, I’m trying to focus on happy moments. Neither one of my paternal grandparents was a big reader, but one of the ways I spent time with my grandmother was by watching historical dramas at the movies.

In honor of her, and the love my grandparents shared, I’m going to go over some of my favorites: 

Pride & Prejudice 

Ah, Jane Austen, bringing people together over 200 years after her death.

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This was the first one we watched together, in 2005.

Book: To me, the enduring popularity of her stories comes down to one thing: the hero falls in love with the heroine not because of her looks or her riches (they’re not written with much of either), but because of her personality. You don’t need to be from the 1800s to identify with that dream.

Pride & Prejudice is arguably her most popular story. It’s spawned endless adaptations. Some, like the 2005 movie and the BBC mini-series were made as costume dramas, but there are other versions too. Modern day! (Bridget Jones’ Diary) Bollywood! (Bride & Prejudice) Zombies! (Pride& Prejudice & Zombies)

Movie: It was my freshman year of high school. I had never been kissed, never fallen in love. Never, in fact, been out of the country.

I loved the music & the scenery. Keira Knightley may have been too pretty to play Elizabeth, but I loved it all anyway. I was hooked.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

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Book: Written by Winnifred Watson in 1938, reissued by Persephone Books in 2000. When we saw the movie at a little artsy theater that had opened shortly before this movie came out in 2008, I had no idea that the movie was based on a book. (In fact, I wasn’t entirely sure until I Googled it just now.)

Movie: The kind of movie that can make any day brighter. After we saw this together, I was smiling the whole rest of the day. It’s a funny & beautiful story that I’m happy we were able to share. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Far from the Madding Crowd

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This was the last one we saw together.

Book: I picked up Thomas Hardy’s book from the library shortly before we went to see this movie. The language is hard to get into at first. (Sometimes there are pages of descriptive language and I found myself forgetting what was actually happening with the plot.) I loved it in the end though.

It’s a story about a very young, fiercely independent woman. (One of the interesting parts is that at least two men propose to her before they even know her–one after less than a week and one on the basis of a valentine sent as a joke.) She makes mistakes along the way–mostly due to her youth and inexperience–but the central love story grows over time to become something beautiful.

Movie: Gorgeous cinematography. There were some exchanges I wish they’d kept between Gabriel and Bathsheba as well as the words on the grave stone, but it was beautifully done all the same.

About the title…

Stepping into a beautiful version of the past alongside people we love is a wonderful way to escape a painful present.

I miss my grandparents. I miss seeing movies with Grandma. Every time I notice a new one is coming out, I think about how much I’d like to see it with her.

Mostly though, I’m grateful that I have so many happy memories of them. Every time I see, read, or remember one of those stories, I’m reminded of her. I’m reminded of how much they loved me and how much I love them.

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Love like that is forever.





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