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This three part mini-series was an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ excellent novel of the same name. It tells the story of Nancy (Nan) Astley (Rachael Stirling), a Whitstable oyster girl in the 1800s, who falls in love with singer and dancer Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes). The two women become partners on and off stage, but the path of true love does not always run smooth, and life has a lot of surprises in store for Nan.

The book was actually my least favourite of Sarah Waters’, but that is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, and I did wonder if the adaptation would be as enjoyable. As it turned out, it was absolutely fantastic, and stayed very faithful to the story. Rachael Stirling was absolutely superb as Nan – utterly believable as both a young and naive girl who doesn’t really understand her feelings towards Kitty, and equally so as a mature, world-weary woman, who has to draw upon all her resources and courage to make a living in 19th century London. Keeley Hawes was fine as Kitty Butler, and the supporting cast, including (the always wonderful) Anna Chancellor, John Bowe, and Jodhi May, were also great. Hugh Bonneville made an impact, despite being in only the third instalment of the series.

Anyone who has read the book will know that there are several explicit sex scenes in the book, and these scenes are also in the series. If you do not like raunchiness on screen, then this is definitely not the show for you! However, there is FAR more to this story than just sex; there is also a compelling and wonderfully acted story, showing how Nan deals with all the problems that life can throw at her. If you like period drama and excellent acting, with added sauciness and humour, then I highly recommend this series.

Year of release: 2002

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Producers: Gareth Neame, Sally Head, Sally Woodward Gentle, Georgina Lowe

Writers: Sarah Waters (novel), Andrew Davies

Main cast: Rachael Stirling, Keeley Hawes, Jodhi May, Anna Chancellor, John Bowe, Sally Hawkins

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