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A Month in the Country by J L Carr
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A Month in the Country (original 1980; edition 2000)

by J L Carr

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1,259666,287 (4.15)322
Member:DRC
Title:A Month in the Country
Authors:J L Carr
Info:Penguin Books (2000), Paperback, 112 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Work details

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

  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
    What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies (KayCliff)
  3. 10
    Maurice by E. M. Forster (1502Isabella)
  4. 10
    The Last Englishman: The Life of J. L. Carr by Byron Rogers (KayCliff)
  5. 00
    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.
  6. 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!
  7. 00
    The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Jannes)
  8. 00
    The Running Foxes by Joyce Stranger (inge87)
  9. 00
    Judgement Day by Penelope Lively (KayCliff)
  10. 01
    Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier (chrisharpe)
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» See also 322 mentions

English (63)  French (2)  All (65)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
What a wonderful, soft spoken novel. A perfect read for a lazy, hot, sunny August afternoon. Carr imbues the story with a sense of loss, be it for times gone past, for lost loves and lost opportunities or just the “warm hug” feeling of poignant memories of a distant summer. The story has a gentleness to it, dwelling on the idyll, even when fleeting memories of the horrors of war past are evoked. It is a story of a summer of contentment, of making that turning point from scarred past into hopeful future. I particularly love how Carr presents the atmosphere of happy contentment as a series of understated contemplative moments, in line with Birkin’s gentle labours to bring to light the wonderful mural on the church wall buried beneath centuries of grime, where discovery is like a jigsaw puzzle – starting out as a series of seemingly unconnected pieces that with time, come together to present a coherent picture to marvel at. As one reviewer, Ingrid Norton, has commented, “Carr’s great art is to make it clear that joy is inseparable from the pain and oblivion which unmakes it. In a world where the most vivid heavens and hells are of our creation, Carr suggests, paradise and purgatory are deeply personal. What we value in life, then, may also be the most difficult to share.” Overall, a wonderfully rewarding read, and a reminder of just how life’s moments can become a precious fountain of evocative memories that can be experienced over and over again. ( )
6 vote lkernagh | Aug 30, 2016 |
This is an excellent read. It tells of a painting restorer who is hired by a small English church to uncover a mural. He is a WWi veteran who has a wonderful time enjoying the atmosphere of the small village, and who falls in love with the wife of a church leader. It has some of the feel of Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. ( )
  jimmoz | May 29, 2016 |
This book reminded me of the writing of Penelope Fitzgerald in length and tone. Style was different, though I can't put my finger on the how. I would describe them both as honest, insightful, and straightforward writers but still they are different.
I liked Tom from the get-go and all the village seemed to feel the same. Moon's story would be an interesting sequel and I would have loved to know more about Alice Keach. ( )
  libbromus | Feb 17, 2016 |
This gentle novel tells the story of a young man called Tom Birkin, a man scarred by the First World War and cuckolded by his wife, whose work involves restoring old church artwork. He is employed by the dour Rector of Oxgodby church, the Reverend J G Keach, to uncover a possible medieval painting following a bequest in the will of a former parishioner, Miss Hebron.

At the same time, a man called Charles Moon is digging outside the church, looking for a grave belonging to Piers Hebron - an ancestor of the same woman - who was thought to have been excommunicated. He and Birkin become friends as they work at their separate endeavours and Birkin also forms a tentative friendship with Alice Keach, the Rector’s wife. Although an agnostic, Birkin finds himself spending more and more time with the stationmaster and his family and other members of the chapel. He starts to feel very at home in Oxgodby.

As Birkin is uncovering the painting, it becomes apparent that one of the figures was covered up earlier than the rest of the picture. Birkin and Moon uncover the secret of the painting, and of the grave, and discover something that has remained buried in the annals of time . They have to decide whether to reveal the secret or allow it to remain buried in the past.

Simple but with a highly entertaining storyline, this book examines the relationships that Birkin has with the people he encounters in Yorkshire. It has a poetical feel about it and the author manages to capture exactly the feel of 1920s rural Yorkshire. I really enjoyed it and I keep thinking about it – a sure sign of a great book. I can see myself reading this one again sometime and I certainly intend to read some more of Carr’s works.
( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
Written in 1980 but set in 1920 this slim novel tells the story of shell-shocked Great War veteran, Tom Birkin, who has taken on the job of restoring a medieval mural in a village church. Moon, another veteran, is searching the grounds for a lost grave. This is a story of recovery and restoration for the men as much as the church. It is a beautiful look back at rural customs and a way of life that no longer exists. The recollection of that gentle, warm English summer is a balm to characters and reader alike. Carr has written an unforgettable story that continues to kindle thought and reflection long after the reading is done. ( )
2 vote VivienneR | Sep 10, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (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 (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. L. Carrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blythe, RonaldIntroductionsecondary 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 never have again what we once thought ours forever...
Our jobs are our fantasies, our disguises, the cloak we can creep inside to hide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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References to this work on external resources.

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.
Haiku summary

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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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Editions: 0940322471, 1590176839

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