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Hill Farm Paperback – 7 Apr 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701185805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701185800
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,130,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"There is so much to admire in this novel: authorial eloquence, sly wit and the multi-faceted evocation of a rural community." (David Lodge)

"A clear-eyed, wise and subtle debut novel from a novelist to watch. Miranda France´s depiction of a vanishing rural Britain is packed with characters and events that ring coruscatingly true." (Liz Jensen)

Book Description

It was the summer that everything changed... A sparkling, witty debut, perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson, Stella Gibbons and Joanna Trollope --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marand TOP 100 REVIEWER on 22 April 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book is centred on the farm mentioned in the title, in particular on the farmer's wife Isabel Hayes. She is mid-thirties, depressed, unfulfilled and unhappy, partly as a result of a miscarriage which is mentioned very early in the book. Her unhappiness also seemed to me to be a wider feeling of life having passed her by, a sense of not having achieved all she could have, of her being stifled by her over-protective parents and her life on the farm. "She was trapped by circumstances and always would be: she had wasted her life and was now too old to change."

It isn't entirely clear when the novel is set. Apart from a few hints you might think it had a contemporary setting, but based on references to avocado bathrooms, powercuts & strikes, and describing a new phone with buttons as a novelty, I think the story is set in the 1970's, a time that coincided with the gradual decline of mixed family farms like that of the Hayes.

Miranda France is, for the most part, good at sketching out her characters and making them believable. She also has some lovely, evocative turns of phrase. However I found some of the characters, most notably the rather ridiculous 'townie moved to the country' , Mr Payne, a man "nervous of grills, or any heated activity", just too stereotyped. I also felt that some characters introduced served no real purpose in moving the novel forward, but were mentioned initially, and then brought back, without any obvious relationship to the plot. It almost seemed to me that the author had these characters in her head and needed to shoehorn them in somewhere.

The book started slowly for me but from about halfway picked up pace and made me want to read on. The ending though was a huge disappointment. It just seemed to stop. I don't want to give away the story, but the central tragedy would have had repercussions, including the potential for a variety of tangents, but none of this is resolved which left me very dissatisfied.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Colley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 April 2011
Format: Paperback
The author of this book is known for two highly acclaimed travel books and this is her first novel.
Set in East Sussex, the plot is based around a farming family and focuses a lot on farmer's wife Isabel. Isabel is depressed and struggling to cope with life, but then a new farm hand called Jack arrives, and a romance blossoms.
The story also includes a great mix of flawed characters from the village. Some of them are stereotypes, but interfering ex- townie Mr Payne deserves a mention - with his idealistic views on farming.
This book turned out to be quite a page-turner, particularly towards the end. It explores the dark underside to village life and it's told in a quirky style that I liked.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sahara VINE VOICE on 27 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Billed as an exciting countryside romp through a typical farming community, Hill Farm, promised to bring a fresh new story for those who love the English countryside.

The story follows the Hayes family. Farmer, Harry Hayes struggles to make a living from his farm while his wife, Isabel, finds comfort with the new farm hand while recovering from a misscarriage. Their three children play on the farm with abandon while their parents are distracted. Their story will end in tragedy

One of the strong points of this book is that France has clearly done her research. Despite the story being set during the 1980's, many challenges farmers face today and attitudes from society are explored realistically.

The major downside to this book which makes any country dweller groan in dispair is the amount of stereotypes. You have the usual set of characters found in fantasy countryside villages, the Vicar who finds life dull after a stint in an inner city parish, the bitter feuds plauging the older generation of women, a disgruntled farm hand who, of course, is a bit dim. More annoying is this assumption that every jumble sale in villages are to fund the repair of the church roof.

There is a somber feel to this book which results in turning the page being a drag. If you are after a cosy English Countryisde story then try somehting like Mapp & Lucia or for a good balance of drama and spirit, Howard's End.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 May 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although Miranda France has written a couple of travel books in the past, this is her first foray into fiction. Set in Sussex, this story predominantly revolves around the farm of the title. Living in a farming community, the Hayes live at Hill Farm, husband and wife, two daughters, and one son.

The tale takes in mainly this family, and the neighbours of the community. There is a vicar who is trying to be hip, as well as other oddball characters. When Isabel meets Miss Prince, though, her life takes a different path. Falling in love with one of her husband's farm hands, Isabel starts cheating on her husband. What with this, her youngest girl being bullied at school, her husband trying to keep the farm afloat, and other problems, this story meanders through to its tragic conclusion.

Although well written this novel does seem to wander slightly from subject to subject. It can't seem to decide whether it is a tale of the state of the countryside, with preservationists on one side, and the farming community on the other, or a tale of life in a small rural community. I found this an enjoyable enough read, and no doubt the next novel will be much better.
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