on 23 May 2012
YES I admit to being a massive Emmerdale fan - luckily I didn't have much street cred to begin with!
I think this is definitely intended for the more hardcore fans, and especially the ones who remember or know about the earlier years, as there are plenty of little references and winks to the audience here and there to keep you happy.
The story focuses on wartime Emmerdale (or more correctly, Beckindale), and the story is told from the perspective of some of the main players of the time - Annie Pearson and her never before seen fiancé, Jacob; George Verney who was the original Lord of the Manor, and Seth's attempts to woo a young Betty Prendergast. It's good to see the Sugdens back as the main family in Emmerdale, if only in the form of a "prequel".
It was also a treat to be introduced to some characters whom we never got to meet, such as the one-armed veteran landlord of the Woolpack and the original owners of the corner shop.
For the most part, the book is in keeping with the series, and you don't feel like it's ventured too far off into its own little world, but there is the occasional inaccuracy or question mark. This is mostly due to the fact that anyone particularly anal about continuity will be trying to reconcile the current village with Arncliffe and Esholt (the original filming locations). I think also the big house is referred to as Home Farm at various times - but I have a feeling it was only called Miffield Hall when the series first started. My guess would be that the majority of people wouldn't be bothered by such things!
If I had one complaint about the book, is that it starts turning into a bit of village of deviants at various points - lesbian crushes, one-night stands and even affairs. It almost gets to the point where it's dominating the story, which I have to be honest wasn't really what I was hoping for. This is entirely my personal preference, of course, and there are a fair share of story threads that have nothing to do with romance - such as the building of RAF Beckindale and how a village virtually untouched by war goes about its day-to-day business (such as rationing and ARP patrols).
It's one of those stories though that is well written and does what Emmerdale does best - village life keeping on through thick and thin with a healthy dose of sharp humour.
It's a shame that a follow-up was never commissioned for this, nor a TV adaptation - but with the 40th anniversary looming, one can only hope for some kind of one-off special event!
A must-have for any Emmerdale obsessive, and it has a personal seal of approval from Stan Richards (the legendary Seth Armstrong himself!).