The Cazalets by Elizabeth Jane Howard, dramatized by Lin Coghlan

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The Cazalets on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 18 February - 8 March 2013
I have to confess that I missed the first installment of Radio 4's ambitious project to broadcast all four of Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet novels, chronicling three generations of a family over the twentieth century.
Coming to the second series cold, so to speak, I was struck by two things: first, that Elizabeth Jane Howard writes the kind of texts that seem ideal for radio adaptation.  The action zips by, while allowing plenty of scope for characterization amongst the large cast.  Penelope Wilton lends authority to the action as the narrator; we can rely on her to keep us informed as to the characters' reactions over time.  Secondly, The Cazalets possesses the same kind of mustn't-miss quality that make television series such as Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs (in its ITV rather than its BBC incarnation) so popular with audiences.  The characters might be from different worlds, with behavioural standards very different to our own, but their reactions to various crises, both domestic as well as political, are easily understandable.  In this second series the Cazalet family have to cope with the privations of war; rationing, the break-up of a close unit, the loss of loved ones in abroad, and so on.  The fact that they learn to manage is testament to their basic strength of character as a familial unit.
Sally Avens' and Marion Nancarrow's production is beautifully staged with a stellar cast including Joseph Millson (in a role very different from that of Orwell, which he recently played during Radio 4's season), Ruth Gemmell, and Naomi Frederick.  The second series runs till 8th March and will be available on the IPlayer until a week later.  Catch it if you can: you won't be disappointed.