Friday, February 26, 2021

2021 - #30 - A Month in the Country; J.L. Carr


TITLE/AUTHORA  Month in the Country,  J.L. Carr

PUBLISHER: NYRB Classics

YEAR PUBLISHED:  19802000 NYRB

GENRE: Fiction Classics

FORMAT:  print PP/LENGTH: 135 pp

SOURCE: my shelves

SETTING(s):  Oxgodby England


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A quiet yet deeply moving story about the calming effects of a peaceful environment and power of art to heal ones suffering.


BRIEF REVIEW:  In the summer of 1920 Tom Birkin is a WWI veteran suffering the after effects of war. He has taken a job in the country, in the Yorkshire village of Oxgodby, restoring a medieval wall mural of Judgment Day, that had long been covered up in a rural church. The project is funded by a deceased benefactor yet, the Vicar Keach is not very happy to have Birkin there.

Tom spends long days up on the scaffolding and quiet nights sleeping on his thick woolen coat up in the belfry.  The work and atmosphere are calming , helpful in the recovery process having seen the horrors of war. There is also another veteran, Charles Moon who had been hired to work on locating a grave of an excommunicated member of the church.  As Tom's work extends longer than planned, the vicar is not too happy and anxious for him to move on.  His lovely wife Alice, unhappy in what appears to be a loveless marriage enjoys spending time talking with Tom.  There is also the Ellerbeck family who welcomes Tom into their home and brings him food offerings.  So it isn't a surprise that the job seems to be taking more of the summer than anticipated.

Told in the first person this is a short, stunning literary piece, as the author looks back nearly six decades after his "month in the country." I loved the writing and all of the intricate details whether it was of the rural landscape, details of church, the belfry or even the people Tom interacts with.  The setting was so tranquil, I felt calm and peaceful myself reading this one and I wanted it to last longer.  I thought the ending was bittersweet. 

I purchased this one along with a dozen or so other NYRB Classics over the last 5-10 years, such well-written literature and lovely to look at on the shelves as well.  This is the second NYRB I've finished in 2021. Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick, is another that I enjoyed. It was my first book of 2021.

RATING: 5/5 stars (Don't Miss It)

MEMORABLE QUOTES: 

"The marvelous thing was coming into this haven of calm water and, for a season, not having to worry my head with anything but uncovering their wall-painting for them.  And, afterwards, perhaps I could make a new start, forget what the war and the rows with Vinny had done to me and begin where I'd left off.  This is what I need,  I thought -- a new start and, afterwards, maybe I won't be a casualty anymore."

"If I'd stayed there, would I always have been happy?  No. I suppose not.  People move away, grow older, die and the bright belief that there will be another marvelous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never, we must snatch at happiness as it flies."

23 comments:

  1. Wow, a "don't miss it" book. That feels so wonderful when we feel that way about a book and so sad when we've finished it. I call these gentle reads.

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  2. I like the theme of finding peace in a country setting.

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  3. Last night, I was reading the introduction to Philip Lopate's new book of essays in which he mentions Elizabeth Hardwick several times. I love serendipity, so in addition to this wonderful review, I need to add Sleepless Nights to my list.

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    1. I hope you will get to try that one and enjoy it as much as I did.

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  4. I'm going to look for this, Diane. Thanks for telling us about it.

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  5. It sounds wonderful, it really does.

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  6. This has been on my kindle for the longest time... thanks for reminding me!

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  7. I love the sound of this book, Diane. And the cover doesn't hurt either. Wonderful, enticing review!

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    1. Thanks so much, I guess I gushed quite a bit bout this one - so good though.

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  8. I usually say I don't read comfort fiction, but this sounds like the kind I do read!

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    1. Never, ever? Well, perhaps you might try this one anyways, the writing is so lovely.

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  9. I loved this one, too, when I read it. I'm only sad I didn't take the time to review it.

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    1. It's one of those books I may actually reread at some point (something I rarely do).

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  10. I read this one many years ago but unfortunately I cannot remember much about it. It's a relatively short read so I should try to re-read it.

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  11. I had not heard of this book, but it sounds absolutely wonderful. I really must add it to my list. I'm glad I read your review.

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  12. I've heard of this and planned to read it some years ago but as is the way of things forgot all about it, so thank you for reminding me.

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  13. This sounds so good. I am going to add it to my list.

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  14. I just recommended that my library get a copy. Thanks for the recommendation.

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