Customer Reviews


52 Reviews
5 star:
 (36)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderul, lyrical read
Set over the astonshing British heatwave of 1976 (if you're not old enough to remember it, lawns were parched, the sun felt like it would never set and the light blinded you with its intensity), Catherine Hall's second novel follows a Cambridge mathematics postgrad as he swaps college life for a summer on a coarse Cumbrian sheep farm. Hoping to keep himself to himself, he...
Published on 8 May 2011 by David Baker

versus
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Violence to animals
I had great hopes for this book as it has so many good reviews, but I was disppointed. It's true that the story was unusual and I quite enjoyed reading most of it, though I wouldn't say it was gripping. However, I almost gave up reading it when I came upon descriptions of violence to animals (on two occasions). In order to read on I had to skip whole paragraphs, for to...
Published on 23 Sep 2012 by S. T. Canfield


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderul, lyrical read, 8 May 2011
By 
David Baker - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
Set over the astonshing British heatwave of 1976 (if you're not old enough to remember it, lawns were parched, the sun felt like it would never set and the light blinded you with its intensity), Catherine Hall's second novel follows a Cambridge mathematics postgrad as he swaps college life for a summer on a coarse Cumbrian sheep farm. Hoping to keep himself to himself, he instead becomes entangled in the dark secrets of rural life, with riveting and unexpected consequences.

Hall's elegant and spare style - she is not one for overblown metaphors or tricky literary devices - lets the story tell itself. And what a story, it is.

A fast read and an engaging one that surprises, delights and disturbs in equal measure.

Very much recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read this year so far ..., 8 May 2011
By 
Sally Fielding (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
This is the best book I've read this year (so far) and since reading it a couple of weeks ago I still catch myself thinking about it even now (and for a while to come I suspect) - always the sign of a good book in my opinion. The language and action of the book is understated yet it gets under your skin right from the start. I had a fair few late nights where I just couldn't put it down. A sad but beautiful book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!, 10 May 2011
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
The Proof of Love is a fantastic read that I would recommend whole heartedly. The story builds from the moment it starts, the pace is deceptive and the story climaxes with an inevitable, but truly tragic ending. I had to put it down for a couple of nights for fear of the ending and of finishing it too quickly. Catherine Hall has captured the smells, sounds, texture and total essence of the Lake District valley, bringing vivid childhood memories of mine flooding back. Her knowledge and descriptions are vivid and the characters so real. The Proof of Love is totally different to her 1st novel, Days of Grace, but written with the same incredible descriptions, I can't wait for more!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the book of 2011, 9 May 2011
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
Catherine Hall is my favourite author of 2011 (so far). Proof of Love is a novel that I couldn't put down. Once finished I had to go back to re read the ending, I wasn't happy with the ending but neither would I have been happy with the alternative that was buliding; so for me and the characters involved it was lose, lose.
Great writing, a wonderful setting, characters that stay with you and crop up in your head at random moments on the tube. To understand what I mean you'll need to read it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Must Be Read, 20 Jun 2011
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
There are some books that catch your unawares when you least expect it. They take you away to a world you aren't sure will be your `cup of tea' and captivate you, they make you want to read the whole book in a sitting or two whilst also wanting to make every single page count. You are bereft when the book finishes is and you can't stop talking about it at any opportunity you get. `The Proof of Love' by Catherine Hall is a book that did just that. I admit that if someone had said `read a book about a Cambridge mathematician who escapes the academic world by voluntarily farming in the lake district in the 1970's' I probably would have said, very politely, `I'm not sure that's my thing'. However I couldn't have been more wrong by this exceptional novel which will be flying into my top five books of the year so far no questions.

Spencer Little arrives in a rural village in the Lake District by bicycle on the hottest day of the sweltering summer of 1976 looking for nothing more than work in exchange for lodging and board. He decides to try the first farm he comes across, Mirethwaite, and the home of the Dodd's family. Here he becomes a kind of addition to a rather interesting family consisting of the young and loveably precocious ten year old Alice, her subdued mother Mary and the head of the household, and rather frightening, Hartley, a man fuelled by alcohol and anger. It's an interesting dynamic to a tale about rural life and `incomers' as well as one of just why Spencer is escaping from the very start and one that becomes more compelling as it goes.

As well as there being the family dynamic in `The Proof of Love' Catherine Hall also introduces the villagers and village life. She also makes sheep farming and village fetes rather exciting which I think deserves a mention, I was honestly on the edge of my seat during a scene involving the removal of a ram's horns. One of my favourite characters was the elderly spinster Dorothy Wilkinson, who in a way becomes the middle man of the story and gives it a peripheral view on occasion, who many people think is `a witch' and yet is one of the few people to befriend this new outsider Spencer. She also manages to encapsulate the gossip and one up man ship caused by boredom and small minds in the women of the town, the men are too often in the pub and not seen so often, in fact it's these very things that give the book its great twists as it moves forward.

Catherine does something very clever with Spencer. He does both alienate and ingratiate himself in village life. He builds a lovely relationship with the young Alice Dodds, whilst also trying to keep everyone at arms length. Ask him anything about Cambridge and he shuts down, this off course adds a second strand to the tale of just why he left and encourages us to read on. It's like a story of a man's struggle to reinvent himself as the man who he really is. You will of course probably need to read the book, and indeed you should, in order to get what I mean and see the brilliance of Hall's writing as she achieves that.

As I mentioned I didn't think that this would be a book that was my sort of thing but I was proven 100% wrong as Catherine Hall weaved me into a subtle and sublime tale that shocks its reader in quick succession half way through and within pages gives the reader a real foreboding of what might be coming for the final 100 pages. You want to read on and you daren't all at once. I wonder if it's that factor that has caused the `Sarah Waters meets Daphne Du Maurier' quote. It's a big hype for any author to be compared to these two novelists, and one I don't think it's fair to call. In fact I think Catherine Hall deserves to simply be called a brilliant author in her own right.
I can't hide the fact that I loved `The Proof of Love'. It's a book that gently weaves you in. You become both an `outcomer' and one of the locals. You are part of the loneliness and isolation of Spencer as well as the gossiping heart of the community, part of the mystery and part of the suspicions. It's a very subtly clever book, it doesn't show off the fact that it's a rare and wonderful book at any point, but I can assure you it is.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Passionate Cumbrian Summer, 6 Dec 2012
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
Catherine Hall's second novel, like her first, examines the nature of love. However, the setting is very different. 'Days of Grace' was set in Kent and London in World War II and the present day; 'The Proof of Love' is set in Cumbria (where Hall grew up) in the hot summer of 1976. Spencer Little, a star Cambridge doctoral student and one of the leading mathematicians of his generation, arrives in Cumbria after an unspecified 'shameful' experience during May Week in Cambridge. He takes a job as a casual labourer with Hartley Dodds, a sheep farmer, in exchange for lodging in a primitive shepherd's hut, and his meals. Soon, Spencer finds himself greatly enjoying his work on the farm, so different to anything he's done before. He gains the respect of the taciturn, hard-drinking Hartley and Hartley's gentle brother Thomas, he gains the trust and friendship of Hartley's shy and frustrated wife Mary, and he forms a very close bond with the couple's precocious 11-year-old daughter Alice, a girl who is just beginning to become aware of the possibilities of life outside the farm. Spencer's time with Alice, taking her to ballet classes, walking with her or explaining to her about mathematics out on the fells, helps him to feel a purer, stronger affection than he's ever felt before. And for a while, he can believe that he's put his past behind him. But a new friendship opens up avenues of passion for Spencer that he'd never imagined, forcing him to confront why he left Cambridge, and leading to him neglecting Alice. Soon, without his realizing it, Spencer's new passion is leading him into danger. But when tragedy strikes, the outcome is unexpected....

I enjoyed this book rather more that 'Days of Grace' (see earlier review), which I admired but ended with very mixed feelings. Spencer is not dissimilar to Nora in 'Days of Grace' in his extreme sensitivity, his difficulty in bonding with others, and his inability to truly reconcile himself to his homosexuality, but he is a rather gentler, more easily sympathetic character. I enjoyed very much reading about his experiences on the farm, and his growing affection for Alice, though I agree with Stevie Davies in the Guardian, who felt that the pair's conversations could occasionally get a little sententious and awkward. (I felt at times that Hall could have fleshed out Alice more as a character - I liked her, but didn't feel I quite 'knew' her enough, and it would have been wonderful to have some sections of the book told from her perspective). I felt that Hall did an impressive job writing about Spencer's work as a mathematician, and about how he relishes the contrast with that work in his farm labouring. His romantic experiences were also sensitively and convincingly described. I also found myself caring a great deal about some of the other characters - Mary the frustrated farmer's wife was a particularly vivid character, as was the elderly poetry-loving spinster Dorothy Wilkinson, and Hall did a clever job of making Hartley both likeable and frightening (even unpleasant at times). There were admittedly passages that stretched my credulity. I found Edmund a rather baffling character - what did he really want, and was he truly selfish or simply immature? - and I could have done with a little back history about Spencer. I wasn't entirely convinced he would feel so awkward about being gay (this was late 1970s, post-Wolfenden, after all) and wasn't sure when he had realized he was, and how it had affected his time at Cambridge - or even before. It would have been interesting to know more (though I suppose it might have spoilt the twist at the end). I also found the incident with Valerie the bikini-wearing hard-drinking femme fatale a bit ridiculous - as if we'd suddenly moved into the similar scene in 'This Sporting Life', but with a very different man! I also couldn't make up my mind whether the final section was perhaps a little melodramatic, though the final pages contained some exquisite writing. Still, I would definitely recommend this novel, in particular for the wonderful descriptions of farming life and of the Lake District. Hall is highly unsentimental (animal lovers beware, there is a grim scene where some puppies are drowned) but also writes with great lyric beauty of the landscape and of the daily hard grind of farming life, broken with trips to the pub, singing and occasional blissful warm days where everything appears to be going right. For me, ultimately, the descriptive writing is what made this book a rather special read. It's made me want to read more about Cumbria (I have Sarah Hall's 'Haweswater' on my shelf to read soon - are these two writers related?), and has convinced me that Catherine Hall is very gifted. I look forward to her next book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bittersweet story, 23 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Kindle Edition)
From the start when Spencer Little rides his bicyle through the Lake District and stops and asks for a bed and food in return for a hard days work, I was gripped by this wonderful tale of awkward shyness, friendship, love and passion. Spencer's character slowly unfolds, he befriends Alice the lonely daughter of the farm couple who give him work, he's slowly accepted by the suspicious, gossiping villagers and he falls in love. This is a wonderful read set in the 70's in the summer of that terrible heatwave, I just couldn't put it down and loved it from start to finish, although the ending did come as a shock. I would highly recommend.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A vivid experience, 4 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
The Proof of Love’ by Catherine Hall is set in a remote village in the Lake District. The landscape and heat of that particular summer provide the perfect backdrop for the plot which gradually unfolds. The author’s knowledge of the area, of farming practices, gives the reader a vivid experience; we are there with the problems of isolation, the harsh realities of making a living, the fierce friendships, the idle curiosity of local people at the advent of a stranger.
Our hero is already bound by problems before he enters the world of the ten-year-old child, Alice, who craves attention. The reader is delighted by his kindness towards her, admires his ability to settle to the wracking work asked of him by her father. We want him to succeed in his search for academic achievement, hope that he will gain confidence to go back and face the challenge of his sexuality. When another young man, a native of the area, befriends him we hold our breath.
The end is unexpected and inevitable at the same time. A book to read and reread. Much admired.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 20 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book. It was beautifully written and unpredictable.
I urge you to read it. The author is one to watch!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow and compelling tale of falling in the fells, 27 Oct 2011
By 
Love Books "Jessie" (Durham, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written book that conjures up life in a small fell village during the long, hot summer of 1976 with a sense of dread and foreboding building from the first page.

Spencer Little is a mathematics genius who's cycled up North for the summer to escape some minor embarrassment back in Cambridge. He hopes to have the time to work on the maths project that should cement his academic future. He trades his labour on a remote farm belonging to the hard-working but alcoholic Hartley and his brother Tom, for free food and lodgings. He soon builds up an affinity with Hartley's wife Mary and their young daughter Alice and at the same time, believes he is falling in love.

As the summer rolls on, so the tension builds and although this is not a fast-paced story, it's compelling.

This is a very good book, sparsely written with the story building to its inevitable conclusion. Recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Proof of Love
The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall (Paperback - 1 Mar 2012)
£6.39
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews