- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (7 April 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0552995363
- ISBN-13: 978-0552995368
- Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.3 x 12.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 858,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
In the Place of Fallen Leaves Paperback – 7 Apr 1997
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A gifted storyteller, steeped in country lore and the beauty of ordinary events. Like Thomas Hardy whose kindred spirit quietly animates these pages, he is concerned with the dignity of work, the force of destiny and the consequences of human passion (New York Times)
Reminiscent of Faulkner and García Márquez, the writing retains a very English scale . Sensitive, heart-warming and hallucinatory (Financial Times)
More perfect than any first novel deserves to be (Observer)
Most beautifully written, hypnotic as Proust, very funny and full of love that doesn't cloy . A dreamy, easy, wonderful read - and quite remarkable for a first novel (Jane Gardam)
This is it. This is the real thing. This is whatever I mean by the work of a born writer . Comic and wry and elegiac and shrewd and thoughtful all at once. Please read it (A. S. Byatt)
A very English kind of magic (Giles Foden)
Tim Pears' beautiful first novel brings just a touch of Macondo to rural Devon in the heatwave of 1984 (Salman Rushdie)
Refreshing, even revelatory . A work that is dense with detail and richly evocative . A very impressive performance (Jane Smiley Washington Post)
Highly atmospheric . It had an intoxicating, magical quality which completely beguiled me (Jeremy Paxman)
Engaging, well-written and original (Philip Hensher Guardian)
Remarkable . a gorgeous tapestry of country life as it was and, perhaps in a few places, still is. And it is tough and trenchant enough to be enjoyed by people who are not otherwise interested in rural idylls (Sunday Telegraph) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Tim Pears' prize-winning, critically acclaimed debut about a hot summer in a Devon village where time seems to stand still --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Tim Pears takes some liberties with the background to his story, describing 1984 as the hottest and driest in year in living memory. In fact, although the spring and summer of that year were indeed unusually warm and dry, if not quite as hot as the summer of 1976, the autumn, especially September and October when most of the book takes place, was unusually wet. Nevertheless, the countryside described here is a place of fierce heat, baked and parched dry by the sun, a place of lassitude, lethargy and idleness. That idleness is sometimes enforced- when the normal time comes for Alison and the other children to return to school they are unable to do so because of a teachers' strike.
Unlike some writers about English rural life, Pears does not concentrate on descriptions of nature and the beauties of the countryside. He is more interested in human life and concentrates more on descriptions of people and how they act, as seen through Alison's eyes. Like most of the villagers, Alison's family are farmers, and many of her reminiscences are of them. The most tragic member of the family is her father, who has sunk into a state of near imbecility, his mind and memory rotted by alcoholism. As a result responsibility for running the farm has devolved upon Alison's stoical if harassed mother and her two older brothers, Ian and Tom. Alison also has an older sister, Pamela, but she is a semi-detached member of the family, spending all day working in Exeter and interested in little except her boyfriends.
Ian and Tom are very different from one another. Ian is something of an intellectual who would doubtless be happier doing something other than farming, an occupation into which he has been forced by family tradition. He is also an insomniac who sits up all night working on chess problems. (It is only rarely that he actually plays a game of chess, due to a lack of opponents of sufficient calibre in the area). Tom is quiet and reserved, more at home with animals than with people. The story of his love-affair with Susanna, the daughter of wealthy incomers to the village, is one of the funniest (and, at times, one of the saddest) episodes in the book. The two remaining members of the family are Alison's elderly paternal grandparents who entertain her with memories of the valley in earlier days.
A number of other characters play important roles in the book. Johnathan, the son of a local aristocratic landowner, is a strange, bookish boy and the nearest thing Alison has to a boyfriend. Douglas Westcott, an eccentric farmer and slaughterer, is obsessed by maps. And then there is the village Rector, a divorcee living alone in a huge, rambling house, desperately trying to bring Christianity to his sceptical, semi-pagan flock.
In many ways the book reminds me of Laurie Lee's "Cider with Rosie", another memoir of life in a West Country valley. Lee's book was of course, at least ostensibly, a work of autobiography rather than fiction, and was set in the 1920s rather than the 1980s, but Pears's book would suggest that despite the coming of modern inventions such as cars and televisions, rural England had not changed all that much in the intervening six decades. Certainly, Pears's Devon valley seems just as remote and cut off from the outside world as Lee's Gloucestershire one, and its inhabitants just as independent and suspicious of outsiders.
I would not rank this book quite as highly as Lee's, which possesses a greater variety of incident and moves along more fluently; "In the Place of Fallen Leaves" can occasionally seem static and repetitive. It is, nevertheless, an impressive first novel, particularly in the author's power to create well-defined characters and in describing the incidents which befall them, frequently amusing, and yet also sometimes tragic.
In his novel, Notwithstanding: Stories from an English Village, based on rural life in the English county of Surrey, author Louis de Bernières calls IN THE PLACE OF FALLEN LEAVES by Tim Pears a "beautiful book." And, indeed, it is.
IN THE PLACE OF FALLEN LEAVES is set in the rusticity of Devon, a south coast shire further to the west of Surrey and one short of that of Land's End, Cornwall. It's the end of a stifling hot summer in the year 1984, and the main character is thirteen-year old Alison, who lives with her two older brothers, Tom and Ian, her older sister Pamela, and her parents and grandparents on a generations-held farm somewhere near the mouth of the Teign River in the triangle of land formed by the towns of Exeter, Torquay, and Newton Abbot.
Alison serves as the narrator of/participant in contemporary events of that September and October and as chronicler of past family history before her time. From the tenor of her narrative, the reader can almost feel the heat that oppresses the region and taste the dust that swirls off the parched land.
As in NOTWITHSTANDING, the affection and empathy of Pears for his book's characters is sumptuously evident. But whereas the former is essentially a series of short stories connected only by its locale, the latter is threaded beginning to end by Alison and her kin even as the author weaves-in other major personae, such as the parish Rector and Johnathan, the son of the former landlord, Viscount Teignmouth, who sold out to a property developer.
A necessary element of any novel is adversity, which, here, is provided by the effects of the sizzling weather and the challenge of several critical events within the family itself. So, for Alison, it becomes a story of maturation and, for the family, one of survival. As crafted by Tim's pen, it's lovingly done, though I do wonder slightly if his depiction of Alison and her perspective would be different if he were a woman. Oh well, no matter, really.
I imagine coming-of-age novels set in rural places number in the thousands. So, why read this one? Well, if your love for England, like mine, is relatively far greater than that for, say, Nebraska, the Philippines, the Ukraine, or any other place, then that's reason enough.
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I am finding it hard to put down
thoroughly recommend this one for those who like a really good read