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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book, as its soft words slip by, vibrates in the memory
Birkin, the ageing narrator, reflects on the summer of 1920 when he - a young, shell-shocked and cuckolded survivor of World War One - spent some weeks in the Yorkshire village of Oxgodby. He is there, ostensibly, to uncover a lost medieval mural in the village church; a painstaking process of recovery. Yet while there, living and working in the church, he discovers...
Published on 1 May 2001

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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is that it?
I re-read this book after reading it initially (which didn't take long) just in case I'd missed something.
It is a gentle book and none the worse for that but I found the pretext for the main character being where he was was far fetched and, as far as the rest of the story goes, nothing of any note happens and no thread of any note develops.
I saw nothing...
Published on 19 Dec 2010 by M. Lilly


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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book, as its soft words slip by, vibrates in the memory, 1 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Birkin, the ageing narrator, reflects on the summer of 1920 when he - a young, shell-shocked and cuckolded survivor of World War One - spent some weeks in the Yorkshire village of Oxgodby. He is there, ostensibly, to uncover a lost medieval mural in the village church; a painstaking process of recovery. Yet while there, living and working in the church, he discovers treasures of far greater value in the people around him. He is shown anew the gifts of compassion and acceptance, of friendship and respect that he thought the Great War had blown away forever. Spanning one short, hazy English summer Carr has written a short, hazy English novel to treasure. Its ending comes, like that of the season itself, too soon and the reader is deprived of nothing less than the light of a sun. Magical and mournful, this novel's controlled simplicity numbs me each time I read it.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just wonderful, 10 Aug 2000
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Helena (Hong Kong, Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Month in the Country (Paperback)
This book is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful I have ever read. It is deceptively simple and delightfully slow-paced, full of Lawrence-like depictions of a vanished pastoral landscape. The focal points are a casual and peculiar friendship between two war-scarred, shell-shocked men and just a barely discernible hint of a female love interest. In a book barely 100 pages long, the author not only manages to give us a story that flows like a stream, but also achieves stunning characterisation, bitter indictment of war and a corresponding celebration of peace, a little suspense, and even a twist in the tail. An exemplary study in subtlety.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An evocation of the past with much to say about the present, 12 Oct 2001
This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I have read and re-read this story so many times now that it is hard to know what to write. Suffice to say, this book is an exquisite recreation of a bittersweet summer which you read first as a perfect historical novel, re-read as an analysis of love and art and finally almost breathe in as a cobweb of love, pain, healing and rediscovery. If that makes it sound like new-age hippiedom then I misdescribe it. In its restrained beauty this book somehow captures the essence of what, even in these more jaded days, is unique about England. And I write that as an inhabitant of Wales. It is a wonderful tale.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, 15 Dec 2010
This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Truly a modern classic that fully deserves its critical acclaim. Beautifully written and wonderfully evocative. I was privileged to know J.L.Carr and the book reflects much of the character and personality of the writer I so much respect and admire.
May I recommend to readers of these reviews Byron Roger's biography " The Last Englishman. The Life Of J.L. Carr", published by Autumn Press Ltd.
If only the DVD of the film were less expensive...
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, 12 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
It tells the story of Tom Birkin, recently returned from WW I, who goes to the town of Oxgodby to restore a medieval wall-painting in an old church. Over the course of his time there, he gets absorbed into the life of the town, falls in love, learns (and reveals) something about the nature of art, and the healing power of both art and love. That makes it sound as if the book's some sort of mushy new-age blather, and it's not at all. It's a short and profoundly entertaining novel. I would have loved to have been assigned this in a high-school English class, because (1) Carr's vocabulary is remarkable, and the occasional strange words he uses are worth looking up (e.g., "sneck"), and (2) it has a lot of the sort of structure that one is forced to write about in English classes ("contrast the relationship between Birkin and his work with that between Moon and his...") but which in this book actually contributed something to the story -- there are multiple parallel threads in the book, and their interweaving makes it richer. I could've written a decent essay about that...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the real Regeneration, 8 Mar 2001
This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I can't stress enough the pleasure I derive from reading and re-reading this book. Tom Birkin, a restorer of church murals and WW1 veteran, spends the smouldering summer of 1920 in a small Yorkshire village restoring a mural in the local church. Birkin's work, his deepening relationship with the local inhabitants and surrounding countryside, and his sudden, but unrequited, love for the local vicar's wife all serve to begin the healing process for his broken spirit. Carr's wry, but beautifully crafted and understated style prevents any hint of sentimentality or self-pity from ruining the atmosphere of the novel. Carr shows Birkin slowly rediscovering the basic decency and humanity of ordinary people, places and experiences. This is Oxgodby's gift to Birkin and Carr's gift to us. Magnificent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gorgeous eulogy for the perfect Summer, 11 April 2013
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We can ask and ask but we can't have again what once seemed ours for ever - the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face.

Birkin, a damaged World War One veteran, is employed to a find and restore a mural in a village church, whilst another veteran is employed to look for a grave beyond the churchyard walls. The writer looks back 58 years later, and as an old man, on his idyllic Summer of 1920. The bitter-sweet happiness the writer describes feels fragile and ephemeral which makes the story all the more beautiful, powerful and haunting. This short book packs so much in: love, loss, social history, the way the past impinges on the present, ageing, war, nature, relationships, spirituality, religion, pain, healing, happiness, and disappointment. Beyond that, the less you know about this book the better, suffice it to say it's a masterpiece and you should read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 7 Mar 2013
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I loved the characters, and the descriptions of the characters shown in the carefully revealed wall painting. We get to knbow the main character slowly, through his meetings with the local community, and I was sorry when the sgtory ended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post 'Birdsong' Perfection, 9 Jun 2010
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Mrs. Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
`A Month in the Country' is so beautiful and involving that as I was reading it I kept measuring what was left and regretting that there wasn't more. Then as soon as I'd finished it I turned straight around and read it again, this time reading the preface by Penelope Fitzgerald that I had avoided for fear of spoiling the story at the first reading.

Experiences that we may have lost from our daily lives are remembered in delightful detail; the sounds of horses in the lanes coming to take a party out for a Sunday Treat, the deep still peace of the undisturbed countryside, with the interruption of `a vixen howling from the edge of some distant wood or the scream of some small creature set upon in the darkness'. Being more than content with `A bed on a belfry floor'. The constancy of Sunday worship, Chapel or Church; the tradition of food served to a family and guests sitting dutifully together, heads bowed, saying Grace.

Recommended to me as a book that can change a life I was sceptical - I rarely agree with such high praise - I feel strongly now that this truly is a story that stays with you and makes you consider your values and life style today. The simplicity of the men's needs while they worked at their separate projects, paid for by the will of an observant and thinking woman with the `face of a field marshal'. The proffered kindnesses from the Stationmaster (Chapel) to Birkin right from when he stepped off the train but also the coolness and distance the Rector (of the Church) showed in contrast. I especially loved the descriptions of the houses and gardens Birkin was invited into, the huge, nearly empty rectory and the homes of the Ellerbecks, poor Emily's family, Lucy Sykes.

Running through the tale was the caring understanding that there are some things that cannot be spoken of but can be acknowledged. The recognition of what men had to go through in The Great War and the plight of the ragged remnants that were `lucky' enough to return. The uncovering of the past, archaeological and mural was all quite in tune with what needed to happen for the two men who found themselves there for the summer. Birkin and Moon both had their different skills and it was fascinating to watch them at work and to admire their professionalism. Their patient unravelling of centuries old mysteries with some shocking revelations makes for further excitement and anticipation though out this multi layered work.

This is a love story too, a contained kind of love but nevertheless intense and moving. As Birkin says "It's an odd feeling, coming rarely more than once in most of our lifetimes". The hot sultry summer, more than a month in truth, of recovery and for Birkin and Moon at Oxgodby in 1920 is captured in aspic forever with consummate skill. I was so in love with this book that I tried to get hold of a copy of the dvd, a film made in 1986 starring Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh. Sadly this is almost unobtainable A Month In The Country [DVD] [1987]I did find a copy on an auction site and have enjoyed watching the dvd, it is as good as it can be a representation of the mood of the book. The musical score is easier to get hold of Howard Blake: Violin Concerto "The Leeds"; A Month in the Country Suite; Sinfonietta and I can really recommend this beautiful violin suite for strings.

In the late autumn of this year I listened to this book produced as a Radio 4 play. It was condensed down to the relationship between Birkin, Moon, and the Keaches. Running for one hour it caught the essence of the story beautifully. Helpfully it was quickly accessible for for being straightforward and actually explained the mystery more clearly than the book.

Weeks after reading this I am, if it is possible to be so, 'homesick' for the book. I keep harking back to Oxgodby and the belfry and feel sad that I am no longer within that space.The writing is a shining example of what makes a `classic'. Along with the `The Remains of The Day', `Birdsong' I know I shall be recommending others to read this for the rest of my life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect novella., 4 May 2001
This review is from: A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The novella stands comparison with The Go Betweens as a splendidly evocative work set in the English country. Do not be put off by its length- it is a deceptively profound book about love and a kind of exile.
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A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Month in the Country (Penguin Modern Classics) by J. Carr (Paperback - 3 Feb 2000)
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