In the early weeks of 1984, for an hour each Tuesday and Sunday evening, a strange silence fell over England, or at any rate over the bourgeois precincts thereof. Streets were deserted; bartenders and waiters dozed idle at their stations; theaters and cinemas played to half-empty houses; telephones and doorbells went unanswered. The English middle classes were in front of their television sets, gripped by the first (Tuesdays) or repeat (Sundays) broadcasting of The Jewel in the Crown, in fourteen weekly episodes. I was living in the English Midlands myself at the time and recall the enthusiasm. It was, I think, the greatest success for a TV fiction miniseries since The Forsyte Saga seventeen years earlier.

The success was well deserved. The miniseries is now available on DVD, and I have recently watched it for comparison with these books. With due allowance for ...

 
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