The Orchard on Fire, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


When Percy and Betty Harlency abandon their seedy Streatham pub, for the Copper Kettle Tearoom in Kent, life for their daughter April changes dramatically.

She is befriended by the wonderfully dangerous Ruby, whose red hair and brutal home life emphasise her love of fire, and by the immaculately dressed Mr Greenridge who likes to follow her around the village.

Mingling the innocent with the sinister and laced with the tragic and the bizarre, this is a rare evocation of a 1950s childhood.




Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

A novel of country childhood, steeped in the heady scent of of Kentish meadows in spring, with the sharp undertone of rotting grass. It is well written, though the aspects of the plot are oddly inconclusive. Bubbles of interests are raised, and left to go flat. The adulthood of the narrator, which frames the events described, is dealt with too quickly, seeming rushed. I suppose however, that this does leave us free to ruminate on the main material of the novel. The glories of childhood, deliciously described, are juxtaposed with darker realities. The fact that this does little to dim the poignancy of the narrators reminiscence is intriguing and the mark of a tale sophisticated in its simplicity. Its beauty is real, not idealistic fantasy, and thus artfully done.

Review by

Picked up off the bookshelf in our holiday cottage - by Darren actually who thought I might like it based on the fact that he'd read another of Mackay's books years ago. And I did. Found it all a bit flowery at first (mostly due to reading it hot on the heels of Ian McEwan I think) but it paints a vivid picture of a 1950s village childhood. Some aspects of it I found a bit stereotypical but in the end they didn't distract from the overall tale.

Also by Shena Mackay   |  View all