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A Month in the Country (New York Review…
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A Month in the Country (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1980; edition 2000)

by J. L. Carr (Author), Michael Holroyd (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,9861096,833 (4.2)1 / 418
In J. L. Carr's deeply charged poetic novel, Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby where he is to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life. But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave. Now, long after, as he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art, he finds in his memories some consolation for all that has been lost.Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved.… (more)
Member:CalabH
Title:A Month in the Country (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:J. L. Carr (Author)
Other authors:Michael Holroyd (Author)
Info:NYRB Classics (2000), Edition: Presumed to be 1st as edition is unstated, 135 pages
Collections:Currently reading
Rating:
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Work Information

A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr (1980)

  1. 40
    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
    The Last Englishman: The Life of J. L. Carr by Byron Rogers (KayCliff)
  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
    The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (amanda4242)
  5. 10
    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)
  6. 10
    What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies (KayCliff)
  7. 10
    Maurice by E. M. Forster (1502Isabella)
  8. 10
    The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Jannes)
  9. 00
    The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner (aprille)
  10. 00
    How to Be Both by Ali Smith (shaunie)
    shaunie: Both books focus on the restoration of a wall painting and the descriptions are pretty similar. Both lovely books!
  11. 00
    Judgement Day by Penelope Lively (KayCliff)
  12. 00
    The Running Foxes by Joyce Stranger (inge87)
  13. 01
    Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (chrisharpe)
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» See also 418 mentions

English (103)  French (2)  Italian (2)  German (1)  All languages (108)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
This is J. L. Carr’s understated, calm, peaceful novella about Tom Birkin, an art restorer, who has been hired for a summer job of restoring a five-hundred year old mural on a church wall in Oxgodby. The year is 1920, and Birkin is a World War I survivor, who has come home to a wayward wife, a life in splinters, and a nasty case of shell-shock. He is seeking something from his month in the country, but not even he knows exactly what that is.

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. Well, we live by hope.

What happens in this story is just life, just living. There is nothing catastrophic, nothing exciting or dazzling, but in the midst of all this everyday life, there is the haunting sense of death in the effects the war has left on Birkin and his new friend, Moon; the ghost of the painter who left his soul imprinted on the church wall; and the lingering of “what if” that is suggested by the presence of the lovely Mrs. Keach, the vicar’s wife. This place is perhaps as unchanged as Birken and Moon are altered.

It was the way they always had lived and, like their forefathers, they travelled no further than a horse or their own legs could carry them there and back in a day.

Perhaps It is this simplicity and normality that affects Birken the most profoundly, for his life has been shredded by the war. There is also the mystery of the painting, which Birkin uncovers, and the grave that Moon seeks, to add an extra touch of interest.

Carr has written perhaps the perfect novel, for he has not wasted one word or thought, each has meaning and impact, and he has told us something important about life, about others. The book goes onto my keepers shelf at home and into my favorites folder here at GoodReads.

For what it is worth, I followed up my reading of this novel by watching the remarkable rendering of it into film. It starred a very young Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh, was superbly done, and I wondered how I had missed it in my own younger days. I feel compelled to use a worn-out cliche here, “better late than never”. Ah yes, much better.


( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Short and not too sweet. But lovely. ( )
  Martha_Thayer | Jan 13, 2022 |
I have found the unofficial NYRB fan club on Twitter. A cry of joy rises when an NYRB book sale appears, and everyone rushes to ask for recommendations and share their choices. When the books start to arrive in the mail, the unofficial fan club members post pictures of their haul. We all ooh and ah over the choices made. This is the best part of the internet—those of us with unique interests and obsessions finding one another. As L.M. Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there so many of them in the world.”

I posted my own stack of spines when they arrived and asked which I should start with first. The crowd came back almost unanimously that it should be A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr. I’m happy to report that this bit of crowdsourcing worked.

This is a book about art and healing. It is a British novel set after the Great War and an artist, Tom Birkin, arrives in the Yorkshire village of Oxgodby to restore a medieval mural on the wall of a church. Over the course of the summer, Tom not only uncovers that art, while pondering the life of its artist but also spends time reflecting and healing from his own apocalypse.

There is something about a novel that takes place over a season and of taking oneself out of the normal routine to find renewal. I recently read another NYRB novel by Tove Jannsen, The Summer Book, which also took place over the course of a summer and was also about healing. I highly recommend that one as well.

Both books would be excellent little novels to take on vacation. Or in my case, to have read while snowed in over the holiday break. ( )
  auldhouse | Dec 29, 2021 |
J. L. Carr's novel, A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY, first published in 1980, has quietly become a modern classic. At less than 150 pages, it is indeed a small gem filled with gentle, redemptive moments and a quirky humor that sneaks up on you. Told by Tom Birkin, a shell-shocked veteran of the Great War, and set in and around a small village in the north of England in 1920, the kindly village residents and the soft summer days play prominent roles in aiding Tom's recovery. I was reminded of Pat Barker's trilogy of WWI novels, but less intense and on a much smaller scale. A quiet anti-war novel with a pastoral feel, I found every part of this novel pitch perfect. I am so glad I've read it. (Thanks to James Mustich for including it in his wonderful 1,000 BOOKS tome.) My very highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Jul 29, 2021 |
"We look blankly at each other. Here I am, here you are. What are we doing here? What do you suppose it's all about? Let's dream on."

"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 can ask and ask, but we can't have again what once seemed ours forever–the way things looked, the touch of a hand, a loved face. They've gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass."

5 stars, 55 stars, 1,055 stars. What a beautiful piece of writing. "What a piece of work is a man"
"people always believe they have more time than they will have..."

( )
  mortalfool | Jul 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (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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Epigraph
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
Dedication
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.'
Quotations
We can ask and ask, but we can't have again what we once thought ours forever...
Our jobs are our fantasies, our disguises, the cloak we can creep inside to hide.
It was the most extraordinary detail of medieval painting that I had ever seen ... "Is there anything anywhere else like it? In the same league?" No, I told him, there wasn't. Once, yes. But no longer. Croughton, Stoke, Orchard, St Albans, Great Harrowden - they'd all been splendid in their day. But not now.
On my way home ... on the empty road ... I suddenly yelled, "Oh you bastards You awful bloody bastards! You didn't need to have started it. And you could have stopped it before you did. God? Ha! There is no God."
So there I was, knowing that I had a masterpiece on my hands but scarcely prepared to admit it ... Each day I used to avoid taking in the whole.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (4)

In J. L. Carr's deeply charged poetic novel, Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby where he is to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life. But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave. Now, long after, as he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art, he finds in his memories some consolation for all that has been lost.Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved.

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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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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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