This month’s round-up of TV and radio*
The Secret Life Of Books
BBC FOUR The series that takes a look at classic books, so often a great source of information about how our forebears lived, continues through November. Among the featured tomes is George Eliot’s The Mill On The Floss (1860), which tells of a young woman’s struggle with her family and for intellectual fulfilment and personal happiness.
As actor and director Fiona Shaw discovers, it was a deeply personal book for Eliot, whose own brother, Isaac, found it difficult to accept her relationship with (married) critic and philosopher George Henry Lewes.
Look out, too, for a show on Cider With Rosie, in which writer Joanna Trollope meets family friends and local historians as she explores Laurie Lee’s autobiographical account of life in the Cotswolds in the wake of the First World War. Lee, it seems, may have bent the truth on occasion.
The Story Of China Wednesday 4 November
BBC TWO Over six episodes, Michael Wood tells the story of how the world’s oldest civilisation developed over three millennia to become its most populous nation and newest superpower.
When Wood reaches the 19th century, expect there to be much about imperial Britain’s morally questionable role in shaping Chinese history through unequal treaties, gunboat diplomacy and the opium trade.
Raising The Bar: 100 Years Of Black British Theatre and Screen
Monday 9 November
RADIO 4 In 1833, Ira Aldridge starred as Othello, ‘the Moor of Venice’, at Covent Garden. Literary magazine The Athenaeum complained about Ellen Tree’s Desdemona being “pawed about” on the stage by a Black man. Even a century later, members of the press still asked Peggy Ashcroft if she objected to kissing Paul Robeson when the duo starred in the same tragedy. Happily, we’ve come a long way since these days of overt racism, but not without battles along the way, some of them ongoing. Over 10 episodes, Lenny Henry tells the story of how Black artists and writers have established themselves on the British stage and in the TV and film industries.
The Waterloo Dead Monday 16 November
YESTERDAY The Medieval Dead team turns its attention to events 200 years ago, when Britain and her allies defeated Napoleon Bonaparte. This was a horrific battle, with huge losses on both sides. The team employ cutting-edge techniques in their customary “CSI meets Time Team fashion” to discover what happened.
Joanna Trollope learns the secrets of Cider With Rosie
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