A sensitive portrayal of the healing process that took place in the aftermath of the First World War, J.L.
Carr's A Month in the Country includes an introduction by Penelope Fitzgerald, author of Offshore, in Penguin Modern Classics. A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting.
Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life he experiences a sense of renewal and belief in the future.
Now an old man, Birkin looks back on the idyllic summer of 1920, remembering a vanished place of blissful calm, untouched by change, a precious moment he has carried with him through the disappointments of the years.
Adapted into a 1987 film starring Colin Firth, Natasha Richardson and Kenneth Branagh, A Month in the Country traces the slow revival of the primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War Joseph Lloyd Carr (1912-1994) attended the village school at Carlton Miniott in the North Riding and Castleford Secondary School. A head teacher, publisher and novelist, his books include A Day in Summer (1964); The Harpole Report (1972); A Month in the Country (1980), which won the Guardian Fiction prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Battle of Pollock's Crossing (1985), which was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize; What Hetty Did (1988) and Harpole and Foxberrow, General Publishers (1992). If you enjoyed A Month in the Country, you might like Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'Unlike anything else in modern English literature' D.J.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 128 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 03/02/2000
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780141182308
Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.
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Review by ablueidol
Takes place in 1920 when two men are thrown together by the will request of a lady of the manor. The one to uncover a medieval painting the other to find the grave of an excommunicated medieval ancestor. Both are scarred by the war in different ways but the tasks and the community allow for a healing of sorts. All very English of unstated strong feelings and possibilities unlived as various loves remain unrequited.Hence why it made a brilliant film...There's no need to rush this movie, it's here to be savoured. If Colin Firth & Kenneth Branagh weren't enough of a temptation (both looking disgracefully young), the colour and pace of this film are delightful. Layers of paint are dabbed away showing a beautiful medieval painting, while layers of emotion are oh-so-subtly revealed too. I loved the understated approach to portraying the trauma of attempting to ease back into a 'normal' life after experiencing the 'hell on earth ' of trench warfare. I now want a month in the country! Enjoy this one with a bowl of fresh braeburn apples...
Review by stephenmurphy
Short, sweet and unmissable. I loved this pastoral, humane and clever book.
Review by Jargoneered
Short novel about a young man uncovering a fresco in a village church in the summer of 1920.Tom Birkin, as an old man looks back to the time when he was a WWI survivor with a nervous facial tick and had been deserted by his wife, and when travelled to the village of Oxgodby to uncover a mural found in the local church. There he meets Moon, another WWI veteran, who is supposedly there to find an unmarked grave but is actually using the time to study the remains of an old church. This brings both of them into contact with the Reverend Keach and his wife Alice, whom Birkin falls in love with. Birkin is also dragged into the life of the Ellerbecks, which leads him into the Wesleyan community, Sunday school and preaching. It would be easy to dismiss this novel as a piece of nostalgia - the village of Oxgodby is standard creation in English bucolic literature: remote from the trappings of "civilisation", strong sense of community, nestled in beautiful countryside, etc. - but Carr's approach is more interesting than that; if this is nostalgia it is nostalgia for what could have been rather than what was. The villagers are not the collection of eccentrics that so often provide local colour, they are portrayed as real individuals - no more tellingly than in the case of the Reverend Keach, who could so easily have been the pantomime villain but Carr cleverly flips our exceptions to create a sympathetic character, one who is at much at sea as the two veterans.Carr could just as easily have bathed his characters in bathos, hammering in the tragedy of the Great War. What we get are glimpses, small memories that makes the sense of loss more poignant. We also get honesty - when it is revealed that Moon was dishonourably discharged from the service for immorality, despite being awarded medals for bravery, Birkin is indignant but admits that the relationship between the two of them was never the same again. The book is beautifully structured; Birkin arriving in the rain, spending a perfect summer in the country, and leaving as the coldness of autumn is in the air. He finishes uncovering the fresco, which is revealed to a be masterpiece; Moon finds the body outside the graveyard and both discoveries are beautifully dovetailed. In the end, the true revelations are one of self.Subtle and full of grace, Carr's prose is wonderful at revealing the small moments in life that are the really important, that we are often drawn back to the momentary window of opportunity that has disappeared almost before we have acknowledged it's existence. Like the summer in the novel - gentle, refreshing, beautiful.
Review by Jannes
I love this book, but I'm at a loss trying to explain exactly as to why. It's a bit strange, that's for sure, as nothing really happens - there's no plot in the ordinary sense.What it does have is an immense, almost overwhelming, atmosphere and sense of place. When I read it I can almost feel the summer heat, smell the dust of the church and the paint's of the protagonist, and hear the stillness of a stifling summer's afternoon. It's a place and a feeling caputured in words on a page.
Review by NeilDalley
Superb. This is such a wonderfully atmospheric book and evokes a forgotten world of summers long ago. When I started reading it the sun was shining and it fitted the mood of the book so well. The beautiful summer month in the country proves to be a wonderful cure, even if the story is shot through with pain from the past here love is found.
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