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A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr

A Month in the Country (1980)

by J. L. Carr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,542887,229 (4.17)372
Recently added byFroggles, private library, asxz, hejmarguerite, pc1951, roblong, badube
Legacy LibrariesNewton 'Bud' Flounders
  1. 30
    Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy (Jannes)
    Jannes: Under the Greenwood Tree was according to the Carr's own foreword one of the main inspirations for A Month in the Country
  2. 10
    Maurice: A Novel by E. M. Forster (1502Isabella)
  3. 10
    The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (Widsith)
    Widsith: Two excellent, but very different, novels about damaged English soldiers returning home from the First World War with shell-shock.
  4. 10
    What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies (KayCliff)
  5. 10
    The Last Englishman: The Life of J. L. Carr by Byron Rogers (KayCliff)
  6. 10
    The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (amanda4242)
  7. 00
    How to be both: A novel by Ali Smith (shaunie)
    shaunie: Both books focus on the restoration of a wall painting and the descriptions are pretty similar. Both lovely books!
  8. 00
    The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (Petroglyph)
    Petroglyph: Both of these books are gentle, mostly quiet novels about an outsider entering a small English town to see through an arts-related project. Their setting surpasses a pedestrian "look at these weird locals". Lots going on in the background if you look for it.… (more)
  9. 00
    The Running Foxes by Joyce Stranger (inge87)
  10. 00
    The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Jannes)
  11. 00
    Judgement Day by Penelope Lively (KayCliff)
  12. 01
    Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (chrisharpe)

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» See also 372 mentions

English (83)  French (2)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (87)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Easy to love novella that I wolfed down after hearing it praised on the Backlisted podcast. Deceptively simple, but deeply charming and exquisitely rendered story of shell-shocked survivors of The Great War. They find their way back to themselves by focusing on working with their hands to serve Art and History and the kinds of things wars are fought for. Sad without being mawkish, funny without trying too hard. This was almost perfect. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Levi Stahl informed me of this novel's existence. Apparently it is a favorite of his. I can see why. I recall reading his thoughts on such and discovering that the book was availible at the library and that the library was closing in less than 20 minutes. i drove like mad and made it. I read the novel that evening. It is a testament to grace. That isn't eternal as such, but the perception thereof can be. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I enjoyed Carr's calm, thoughtful, matter-of-fact—but often beautiful—writing style. The narration feels very honest. Some questions are obscured, but later are solved—and some problems are never resolved. There are plot lines about religion, and friends and relationships—quite a lot of thought about time on all its scales, from engrossed moments to missed moments, days, seasons, lives, and an artist from 500 years before. It is a short story, and everything is packed in tight, but never rushed. Worth reading and thinking about. ( )
  breic | Feb 18, 2019 |
Somehow Carr captures that golden feeling in the prose of the early 20th century. A Month in the Country is set after WWI and the protagonist has been affected by combat experience, but his activities and the shelter he finds in the small village while restoring a medieval church painting are of an earlier time. That feeling is helped by the novel being the reminisces of an elderly man looking back on events with a conciously rosy filter. There is sadness, regret, and the sure knowledge that it will all end, but they're fond memories nonetheless. It makes for lovely reading. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Read as recommended on Backlisted podcast, episode #1. https://www.backlisted.fm/episodes/1-j-l-carr-a-month-in-the-country

Very good.
  k6gst | Feb 8, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Reissued as part of the Penguin Decades series, JL Carr's slender, Booker-shortlisted and semi-autobiographical novel was published in 1980 but looks back to an earlier time. The narrator, Tom Birkin, reflects on a summer spent in the small Yorkshire village of Oxgodby in 1920. Near destitute and still visibly shaken by his experiences during the first world war and through the painful break-up of his marriage, he has been assigned the job of restoring a medieval mural hidden beneath whitewash on the wall of the village church.

As he painstakingly removes several centuries' worth of paint and grime he becomes gradually less closed off and begins to make friends within the community, in particular with Moon, another war veteran, who is camped in the churchyard, ostensibly looking for a lost grave. As Birkin uncovers patches of gilt and cinnabar up on his scaffold, Moon digs his pits outside the church walls; both of them are striving for some sort of, if not restoration, then freedom from their past, and for Birkin, at least, his stay at Oxgodby is a time of healing.

Slim as it is, this is a tender and elegant novel that seemingly effortlessly weaves several strands together. Carr has a knack for bringing certain scenes into sudden, sharp focus, rather as waves lift forgotten things to the surface. He writes with particular precision and admiration about the joys of skilled men going about their business. He also subtly evokes lost rural customs and ways of living that, even at the time, had begun to fade from view: cart rides and seed cake and honey-thick accents that had not yet been filed down by mass communication.

The sense of things lost to time is pronounced but not overplayed and there's a gently elegiac quality to the developing picture of a warm and hazy English countryside summer. This pleasant vision is countered by his rawer and more acute account of the deep mark left on a man when a chance of happiness is glimpsed and missed and left to settle in the memory.
added by VivienneR | editThe Guardian, Natasha Tripney (Aug 8, 2010)

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carr, J. L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benítez Ariza, José ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blythe, IanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blythe, RonaldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emeis, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holroyd, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rogers, ByronForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'A novel' - a small tale, generally of love'
- Dr. Johnson's Dictionary

'Now for a breath I tarry,
nor yet disperse apart-
Take my hand quick and tell me,
What have you in your heart?
- A. E. Housman?

She comes not when Noon is on the roses -
Too bright is Day
She comes not to the Soul till it reposes
From work and play.
But when Night is on the hills, and the great Voices
Roll in from sea
By starlight and by candlelight and dreamlight
She comes to me
- Herbert Trench
For Kathie (1980)
For Kathie and for Sally...fare well (1991)
First words
When the train stopped I stumbled out, nudging and kicking the kitbag before me. Back down the platform someone was calling despairingly, 'Oxgodby...Oxgodby.'
We can ask and ask, but we can never have again what we once thought ours forever...
Our jobs are our fantasies, our disguises, the cloak we can creep inside to hide.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
Tom Birkin, a damaged survivor of the First World War, is spending the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting in the village church of Oxgodby. Joined by another veteran employed to look for a grave outside the churchyard he uncovers old secrets that bear on his experience of conflict.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0940322471, Paperback)

Any good reader has, well, had it with novels of healing. The culture of confession has given rise to novels that begin with an unspeakable act (graphically described) and end in redemption (this part is usually more vague). That's not how it works in J.L. Carr's quiet, brief, dreamy A Month in the Country. Writing in 1978, Carr's narrator, Tom Birkin, recalls the summer of 1920. A veteran of the Great War and a cuckold, Tom arrives in Oxgodby to restore a medieval mural in the church. His single season in this town in the north of England passes quickly: he sleeps in the belfry, makes a friend or two, falls secretly in love with the vicar's wife, and, chipping away at plaster and dirt, uncovers a lost masterpiece. These events seem to melt past Tom in the heat of the perfect, fleeting English summer: "The front gardens of cottages were crammed with marjoram and roses, marguerites, sweet William, at night heavy with the scent of stocks. The Vale was heavy with leaves, motionless in the early morning, black caves of shadow in the midday heat, blurring the sound of trains hammering north and south."

Carr devotes many fewer words to Tom's time in the war. The vicar's wife tries to ask him about it. "'What about hell on earth?' she said. I told her I'd seen it and lived there and that, mercifully, they usually left an exit open." His healing consists of not talking about his past--perhaps a revolutionary notion these days. A Month in the Country, with its paean to a lost, good place, oddly recalls Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes. But where that novel was elliptical, Carr's work values clarity and simplicity above all. These are rare enough qualities, but to find them in a novel of romance and healing is a rarer pleasure still. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:08 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summers, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's extraordinary depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 0940322471, 1590176839

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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