A Month in the Country – J. L. Carr, A Beautiful Novel

A Month in the Country was a book I wanted to read for a very long time, and when I finally came across it in a second-hand bookstore, I couldn’t help but buy it. This book intrigued me because it was on the essential reading lists and among the great books that influenced many authors.


A Month in the Country sounded pretty romantic and attractive because of its name, frankly. I have always wanted to live in a rural place for as long as I can remember, and that’s why I can say that I automatically love any book set in a rural location. A Month in the Country also became one of my favourite books and once again showed me how the countryside slowly gets under people’s skin.

A Month in the Country - J. L. Carr

A Month in the Country begins with Tom Birkin going to Oxgodby after the war. Birkin settles in his not-so-glamorous temporary home to restore a newly emerged medieval work of art in this lush and charming Yorkshire village. Birkin, who has left behind a marriage and the horror of war, explores the beauties of the countryside while revealing the medieval picture.

He begins to believe in people, nature and himself again. Of course, the reader feels like running away to the nearest village and hugging the trees. A Month in the Country is for those readers looking for a short read. And I must warn you; the narration may not be for everyone. Don’t forget to read a few pages before buying. Enjoy!

PS, I think this may be a good book to read in autumn and if you’re looking for cozy reads, check this out: Cozy Autumn Books

A Month in the Country - J. L. Carr

A Month in the Country

A Month in the Country is Tender and elegant’ Guardian
‘Unlike anything else in modern English literature’ D.J. Taylor, Spectator

A Month in the Country: A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life he experiences a sense of renewal and belief in the future.

Now an old man, Birkin looks back on the idyllic summer of 1920, remembering a vanished place of blissful calm, untouched by change, a precious moment he has carried with him through the disappointments of the years. Adapted into a film starring Colin Firth, Natasha Richardson and Kenneth Branagh, A Month in the Country traces the slow revival of the primaeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War.

With an introduction by Penelope Fitzgerald

J. L. Carr

Carr was born in Thirsk Junction, Carlton Miniott, Yorkshire, into a Wesleyan Methodist family. His father Joseph, the eleventh son of a farmer, went to work for the railways, eventually becoming a station master for the North Eastern Railway. Carr was given the same Christian name as his father and the middle name Lloyd, after David Lloyd George, the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer. He adopted the names Jim and James in adulthood. His brother Raymond, who was also a station master, called him Lloyd.

Carr’s early life was shaped by failure. He attended the village school at Carlton Miniott. He failed the scholarship exam, which denied him a grammar school education, and on finishing his school career he also failed to gain admission to teacher training college. Interviewed at Goldsmiths’ College, London, he was asked why he wanted to be a teacher. Carr answered: “Because it leaves so much time for other pursuits.” He was not accepted. Over forty years later, after his novel The Harpole Report had become a critical and popular success, he was invited to give a talk at Goldsmiths’. He replied that the college had had its chance of being addressed by him.

In 1967, having written two novels, he retired from teaching to devote himself to writing. He produced and published from his own Quince Tree Press a series of small books designed to fit into a pocket. Some of them were selections from the works of English poets, while others were brief monographs about historical events or works of reference. To encourage children to read each of these small books was given two prices, the lower of which applied only to children. As a result, Carr received several letters from adults using childish writing in an attempt to secure the discount.

He also carried on a single-handed campaign to preserve and restore the parish church of St Faith at Newton in the Willows, which had been vandalised and was threatened with redundancy. Carr came into conflict with the vicar of the benefice and the higher church authorities in his campaign. The building was saved, but redundancy was not averted and the building is now a scientific study centre.

In 1986 Carr was interviewed by Vogue magazine and, as a writer of dictionaries, was asked for a dictionary definition of himself. He answered: “James Lloyd Carr, a back-bedroom publisher of large maps and small books who, in old age, unexpectedly wrote six novels, which, although highly thought of by a small band of literary supporters and by himself, were properly disregarded by the Literary World”. Carr died of leukaemia in Kettering on 26 February 1994, aged 81.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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