6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2012
As one who instantly became a fan of J.L. Carr and kept fearing that the next book I read of his would not be up to the standard of the others, I am delighted to report that his form never wavered throughout his eight novels. As well as being fine novels, each was overflowing with little side pleasures. In this one, for example, there is Avona Fazackerly, who though she appears briefly only seven times, gradually becomes one of the most delightful minor characters in fiction and plays an important and happy part in the story.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2011
I've read two previous novels by J L Carr and this, about the vagaries of small-time publishing, is as enchanting as any. It is full of the kind of insights you would expect from a man who gave up his teaching career early to dedicate his life to the world of books, running his publishing 'empire' literally from the back bedroom of his semi-detached home in Kettering, Northants.
As with A Month in the Country (shortlisted for the Booker Prize) and The Harpole Report, a very amusing insight into the teaching profession, Harpole and Foxberrow bears testimony to the author's simple, compelling style. He is the least pretentious of novelists and deserving of far better treatment than he evidently received from the six different trade publishers that handled his novels.
It was, in fact, a sense of injustice that drove Carr to abandon the traditional route to publishing his work and strike out on his own. Not only did he buy back remaindered copies and publishing rights from the various houses with whom he was involved, he actually issued his new books under his own imprint, together with fresh editions of his previous titles.
From this sprang Quince Tree Press, which thankfully still survives under the management of Carr's son and daughter in law. Besides keeping Carr's own novels in print, the tiny enterprise continues to publish the small format books of poetry, aphorisms, potted history and the like that Carr himself was so proud of. It also publishes the idiosyncratic maps that were also an integral part of Carr's solo enterprise.
For anyone fascinated by boutique publishing- a welcome antidote to the soulless world of the conglomerates - this little book is a delight to behold. Carr, in fiction and reality, was an inspiration to those who believe that, in publishing at least, small can be very beautiful indeed.