Fangirl Fridays – A Place to Call Home

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
~ L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

I have been caught again watching a TV period drama and loving it.

I may have told you already how much I like historical period dramas, and when they are done properly and the acting is good and believable, they captivate me. A Place to Call Home has captivated me lately, and I’d like to tell you a little about it. I will keep my description short and try not to have too many spoilers, in case you’ll want to watch it.

Come with me and you are in for a treat.

A Place to Call Home is an excellent (IMO) Australian TV period drama set in the early 1950s against the backdrop of an Australia that is undergoing major changes in the aftermath of World War II. The first season premiered in April 2013. Season 3 ended last November, and Season 4 is due sometime in 2016.

On a journey by ship from Europe to Australia, we meet the upper-class Bligh family members as they encounter the ship’s nurse, an Australian woman, who is returning home after 20 years in Europe. Thus begins Sarah Adams’s journey back from the horrors she experienced during WWII to a new life in a rural town called Inverness. Ms Adams is that nurse, a job she has taken to enable her return. Little did she (and we) know that her encounter with the Blighs will affect her from that moment on and have a great impact on her new life.

The plot (just the minimum basic facts)

While working as ship’s nurse, Sarah Adams is sent to check on Mrs. Elizabeth Bligh, the old matriarch of the Bligh family. Mrs. Bligh travels with her family: her son George Bligh, his children Anna and James, and James’s young bride Olivia. Nurse Adams helps James Bligh in a difficult situation, and George Bligh extends her an invitation to work at Inverness Hospital. Then Sarah discovers, unintentionally, a scandalous Bligh family secret that links her future with theirs.

Sarah starts working at the hospital with Dr. Jack Duncan, who is also involved with the Blighs in more than one way. Elizabeth Bligh, in her attempt to neutralize a possible scandal, does everything in her formidable power to force Sarah to leave Inverness. This starts a series of events that move the story forward.
On the ocean liner

The family clashes take place in parallel with changes that Australian society is experiencing after the war, which reflect global changes, and are central to the various plots.

The plots are an engaging mix of secrets, lies, romances, and heartaches; stiff social-class conflicts; and bigotry. APTCH features many confrontations between people with prejudices and intolerant behaviors. Outsiders are viewed with suspicion, and if you are different in any other way, you may be looked upon as a threat to society. It’s about people’s inability to accept other people just as they are. It’s about our ability to forgive and continue on without looking back.

The fictional town of Inverness has all the character clichés you’d expect to find in a small town, from the town’s gossipy busybody to the grumpy old man who lives alone and doesn’t let anybody in.

Yes, this show has a lot of cliché and predictable lines, but these are well managed and quite engaging.

What hooked me on the show was Sarah’s character. She is a nurse, and she has tremendous capacity to care and to heal. She has experienced horrifying times, lost a lot, including love, but love does not define her. She can live without it and care for those who need her. Sarah has a strong backbone; she is loyal and courageous. Sarah just looks for peace — peace of mind and a quiet place to live — so she can heal her mind and body. Alas, this is not possible, not yet at least. Sarah is doing her best, but sometimes it is not enough.

Sarah and The Dog

A few words about the main characters

Sarah Adams
Sarah Adams (played by Marta Dusseldorp) is one determined woman. Her past is dark and appalling, yet she shows strength, compassion, and love. She is graceful, yet enigmatic. She carries secrets and scars from her time in the war, but is strong enough to start afresh, to build new life and leave the past behind.

Elizabeth Bligh
Elizabeth Bligh (played by the distinguished actress Noni Hazlehurst) is the power behind the Bligh dynasty. She is fierce and protective, will do anything to protect her family members and name. She is strict with herself and demands the same from her family members. This leads to a lot of clashes with them.

George Bligh
George Bligh (played by Brett Climo) works with his dominant mother on the estate, but is slowly coming out from under her shadow. He is compassionate and generous, sometimes too much for my taste. Well, sometimes he is being played by the women around him... but he is a good chap.

Caro Bligh
Carolyn Bligh (played by Sara Wiseman) is George’s sister, who is the black sheep of the family. She lives a bohemian life in Sydney, but hides heartache behind her supposedly glorious city life.

James and Olivia
James Bligh (played by David Berry) is George’s son. He is newly married to Olivia, the youngest daughter of a British aristocratic family. James hides a grave secret, one that can complicate his and his family’s lives.

Olivia Bligh (played by Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood) is the sweet English girl who married handsome James Bligh. Before that, she was secretly in love with him for four years while he attended a university in England with her brother.

Anna Bligh
Anna Bligh (played by Abby Earl) is George’s youngest child. She is feisty and full of life. She always speaks her mind and follows her heart — a very modern girl for her time.

Gino Poletti
Gino Poletti (played by Aldo Mignone) is the son of Italian immigrants who work as farmers on the Bligh lands. Gino and Anna were childhood playmates, and their friendship blossomed into a mature love.

Jack Duncan
Dr. Jack Duncan (played by Craig Hall) was a POW in a Japanese prison camp and still suffers from the horrors he experienced there. He has a special connection to Mrs. Bligh and owes her a lot. He is a good doctor, dedicated to his work. He has a few secrets of his own and is a good friend to Sarah.

A few more characters worth mentioning

The Bitch
Regina Standish (played by Jenni Baird) is George’s sister-in-law. She is the BITCH, mean and manipulative. I think she is miserable and desperate, but I find her despicable.

Doris Collins
Doris Collins (played by Deborah Kennedy) is the requisite town gossip, good natured but super nosy.

Roy Briggs with Sarah
Roy Briggs (played by Frankie J. Holden) appears at first as a grumpy old man, living not far from the Bligh estate house of Ash Park. He lost both sons in the war and his wife soon after. He forms a close bond with Sarah Adams.

APTCH became the top-rated Australian drama in 2013, but suffered a dramatic ratings drop during the second season and the network cancelled the show. Then the fans of the show immediately organized petitions and protests, hoping to change the network’s decision.

After months of lobbying from fans, another network sighed a deal to renew the show! They changed the ending of the last 6 minutes of season 2 finale (!) and secured the original cast for a 3rd season, which aired in 2015.

Some articles claim that APTCH rode the popularity of Downton Abbey, and even called the series “Downton Abbey down under”. In my opinion, it is not. Both are period dramas and portray an upper-class family story, but the world is a changed place after WWII. The transit of the Crawley family into the 20th century cannot be compared to the changes taking place after WWII. I find the theme of the shows to be completely different. I feel that APTCH is more down to earth; the people are not as aloof as in Downton Abbey.

What is similar in both series are the beautiful clothes. I love gorgeous period fashions (see my post on Downton Abbey costumes here). The many details of 1950s fashion are reproduced remarkably, from the dresses to the hairstyles and even the hats. I also want to give honorary mention to the vintage cars used in the show.

A sampling of the fabulous clothes
And the vintage cars

Worth mentioning is the great series soundtrack that ranges from Doris Day’s Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered to Nat King Cole’s Mona Lisa, and also includes Patti Page’s Would I Love, Hank Williams’s Your Cheatin’ Heart, and more.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that at the end of episode 7, season 2, I was a mess, crying my eyes out — just to show you how good this series is by how deeply it affects me. I recommend A Place To Call Home wholeheartedly.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!”

~Sir Walter Scott, Marmion


  1. I'm looking forward to checking this out, especially now that Downton is on its last season. There can never be enough good period dramas! I found this on Netflix and added it to my queue. Thanks for sharing!!


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