The Secret Life of Books

Watch The Secret Life of Books

  • Not Rated
  • 2014
  • 2 Seasons
  • 7.2  (25)

The Secret Life of Books is a fascinating documentary series that premiered on Acorn TV in 2014. It is hosted by Samantha Bond, Cerys Matthews, and Alice Roberts, three knowledgeable and engaging presenters who take the viewers on a journey through the lives and work of some of the world's most famous authors.

The show is structured around a simple but effective premise: each episode focuses on a single book, revealing its history, its impact on culture, and the personalities behind its creation. The books featured are an eclectic mix of classics, cult favorites, and bestsellers from different eras and genres.

What makes The Secret Life of Books stand out is the way it explores the wider context in which each book was written, drawing on archival footage, interviews with experts, and scenes filmed in the authors' homes or in the locations that inspired them. For example, in the episode about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we see Bond and Roberts visiting the Congo, tracing the journey that Conrad made on a steamboat up the river in the late 19th century, and discussing the controversial legacy of the book's portrayal of Africa and imperialism.

In addition to the historical and geographical context, the show also delves into the literary and artistic influences that shaped each author's vision. Matthews, a Welsh singer-songwriter, provides musical interludes that connect the books to the wider cultural heritage of their time and place. Roberts, a biological anthropologist, sheds light on the scientific and philosophical ideas that informed the authors' worldviews. Bond, a familiar face to fans of Downton Abbey and James Bond films, lends a warm and witty presence to the proceedings, keeping the focus on the human stories behind the books.

The episodes vary in tone and mood, depending on the book being explored. Some, like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, are infused with humor and romance, while others, like George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four or Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, are darker and more introspective. But all of them share a common thread: the power of literature to capture the essence of the human experience and to transcend the boundaries of time and space.

The Secret Life of Books is not just a show for die-hard bookworms or ivory tower intellectuals. It is a show that appeals to anyone who loves stories, who is curious about the world, and who wants to understand the connections between literature and life. The show is beautifully produced, with stunning visuals, evocative music, and a pace that allows the viewers to savor the details and insights without feeling overwhelmed or bored.

Whether you are a seasoned reader or a newbie to the world of books, The Secret Life of Books is a must-see series that will expand your horizons, challenge your assumptions, and ignite your imagination.

The Secret Life of Books
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  • Premiere Date
    September 5, 2014
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (25)