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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The House of Eliot by Jean Marsh. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. ISBN: 0312109962

Don't read this book. Instead, hark ye down to your local public library or, heaven forbid, video outlet, and check out the 6-volume video series on which it is based. For yes, this is one of those rare cases where the novel is based on the television series, rather than the other way around. And this is one of those wonderful A&E/BBC productions that is definitely not to be missed.

Set in the roaring twenties in London, the tale revolves around the two Eliot sisters, Beatrice, about 30 years of age, and Evangeline, just coming of age, whose father has died, and left them virtually penniless. Experts at sewing and designing their own clothes, they somehow stumble onto the idea of creating a haute couture fashion design firm, eventually dubbed "The House of Eliot."

The many troubles, tribulations and trials they encounter along the path to their inevitable eventual success are portrayed in a thoroughly charming manner that, when the show was originally broadcast, left you eagerly awaiting each weekly episode with breathless anticipation. Now you don't have to wait. If you can get your hands on the videos, you can have your own House of Eliot marathon, and watch them all at once.

I only read the book because I had enjoyed the series so much when it was originally broadcast on A&E over a decade ago, and the book was now languishing on the library discard shelf, and I just couldn't resist revisiting the delectable Eliot sisters in print. But this is one case where the book doesn't even BEGIN to measure up to the original. Don't bother with the book, go watch the series. You won't be disappointed.

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