Definitions

woman of letters

Ladies of Letters

Ladies of Letters is a BBC Radio 4 comedy series starring Patricia Routledge and Prunella Scales, based on the series of books of the same name written by Carole Hayman and Lou Wakefield. Routledge stars as Vera Small and Scales as Irene Spencer, two elderly ladies who share a sometimes rocky relationship conducted by correspondence. The success of the first series (broadcast in 1997) spawned adaptations of several sequels: More Ladies of Letters (1999); Ladies of Letters Log On (2000); Ladies of Letters.Com (2001); Ladies of Letters Make Mincemeat (2001 Christmas Special); Ladies of Letters Spring Clean (2004); Ladies of Letters Go Global (2006); Ladies of Letters Say No (2007); and Ladies of Letters Go Green (2008). Each of the 15 minute episodes come as part of BBC Radio 4's long running magazine program Woman's Hour.

Vera and Irene reveal their exploits and adventures to each other in their letters, but sometimes their correspondence becomes fractious when one accuses the other of being an alcoholic or engages in too much one-upmanship. Other characters include Vera's gay son Howard who runs a sheep farm with his partner Anthony, and her daughter Karen; and Irene's daughter Lesley. Vera and Irene always strive to outdo each other, whether with their recipes, holiday destinations or who has the best grandchildren. Later in the show's run it is revealed that Irene also has a son called Christopher, who had been given up for adoption years previously.

The humour is mostly derived from the lack of insight of the two main protagonists, but there is also a somewhat melancholic theme that lurks just beneath the surface at the way these two women are taken for granted by their respective families. By the end of 2004's Ladies of Letters Spring Clean it is implied that there has been something of a parting of the ways between the women and their kith and kin. Linguistically, there is also the misspellings and many word errors in the two ladies' letters.

Ladies of Letters Go Global (broadcast January 2006) featured a somewhat bizarre and unlikely world tour undertaken by the two women, in contrast to the more naturalistic tone of previous stories. The BBC issued a CD collection of the first seven series as a special 'biscuit tin' release in October 2006 A short, newly-written, episode was featured as part of the Woman's Hour 60th Anniversary concert in October 2006.

Ladies of Letters Say No was broadcast in August 2007 and featured a broadly satirical take on the involvement of the private sector in the NHS, concentrating on the underhand dealings of the tycoon Alan Trumper. Ladies of Letters Go Green - the ninth series - was broadcast in March 2008

Book details

  • Ladies of Letters (ISBN 0-233-99920-5)
  • More "Ladies of Letters" (ISBN 0-233-99926-4)
  • Ladies of Letters.com (ISBN 0-7515-3189-8)
  • Ladies of Letters Log On (ISBN 0-7515-3219-3)
  • Ladies of Letters Make Mincemeat (ISBN 0-563-49495-6)
  • Ladies of Letters Spring Clean (ISBN 0-563-52300-X)
  • Ladies of Letters Go Global (ISBN 0-563-50440-4)
  • Ladies of Letters Say No (ISBN 1405-67726-0)
  • Ladies of Letters Go Green (ISBN 1405-68746-0)

External links

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