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A Month in the Country (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 31, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 135 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; First Edition edition (October 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322479
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Any good reader has, well, had it with novels of healing. The culture of confession has given rise to novels that begin with an unspeakable act (graphically described) and end in redemption (this part is usually more vague). That's not how it works in J.L. Carr's quiet, brief, dreamy A Month in the Country. Writing in 1978, Carr's narrator, Tom Birkin, recalls the summer of 1920. A veteran of the Great War and a cuckold, Tom arrives in Oxgodby to restore a medieval mural in the church. His single season in this town in the north of England passes quickly: he sleeps in the belfry, makes a friend or two, falls secretly in love with the vicar's wife, and, chipping away at plaster and dirt, uncovers a lost masterpiece. These events seem to melt past Tom in the heat of the perfect, fleeting English summer: "The front gardens of cottages were crammed with marjoram and roses, marguerites, sweet William, at night heavy with the scent of stocks. The Vale was heavy with leaves, motionless in the early morning, black caves of shadow in the midday heat, blurring the sound of trains hammering north and south."

Carr devotes many fewer words to Tom's time in the war. The vicar's wife tries to ask him about it. "'What about hell on earth?' she said. I told her I'd seen it and lived there and that, mercifully, they usually left an exit open." His healing consists of not talking about his past--perhaps a revolutionary notion these days. A Month in the Country, with its paean to a lost, good place, oddly recalls Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes. But where that novel was elliptical, Carr's work values clarity and simplicity above all. These are rare enough qualities, but to find them in a novel of romance and healing is a rarer pleasure still. --Claire Dederer

From Library Journal

Protagonist Tom Birkin is a broken man. Haunted by his experiences in the trenches of World War I and recovering from a divorce, Birkin accepts a job restoring a medieval mural of the apocalypse in a church located in a remote corner of Yorkshire. It is here, however, that Birkin, though alone with only an interpretation of the world's end for company, learns to live again. Carr's small gem of a novel was first published in 1980.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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All in an afternoon's read.
Vestal McIntyre
A short, but beautiful book that draws in the reader and invites them to relish every word.
Diplocaulus
This is one of those works of art that falls into a category of its own.
George Besson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By B. H. Stewart on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The main theme of this charming novel is how important it is to understand the irretrievable passage of time and to savor the good times that come along. The narrator tells the story of an enchanted summer he spent in Cornwall uncovering an ancient painting in a country church. He looks back upon this time (1920) as one of the most wonderful, important periods of his life. He meets several villagers who make an indelible impression upon him and pleas with us to appreciate our own little "months in the country"--those days when things are going well. Such a good, kind, fully-alive character. I was moist-eyed by the final pages (it's a very short novel) and didn't want it to end. Sweet, powerful, and as lovely as a summer day in the country.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
A Month in the Country is unrelated (as far as I can tell) to the Turgenyev piece of the same name. It is, however, a wonderful book, made into a decent movie about 6 years ago, I believe.
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 inteweaving makes it richer. I could've written a decent essay about that...
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on May 23, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I was reading this book I often felt as if i was either there or the author was telling the story directly to me. My only objection is that it was too short!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By George Besson on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is one of those works of art that falls into a category of its own. Carr's writing is impeccable and it took on a magical quality where the past and future were perfectly brought together through the voice of the protagonist Tom Birkin. I'm on my fourth reading of it.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on April 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a gem - a quiet and realistic recounting of a summer spent uncovering a mural and a life. This is a novel in which nothing extraordinary happens, but full lifes interact moving people closer (or father) from themselves, friendships, loves and human understanding.
The narrator is a disfigured veteran of World War I. His wife has left him; his employer retired making this his first job as a self-employed professional. His life is contrasted with that of another veteran hired to find an ancient grave. The friendship of the veterans is the first step in reconnecting to the world. Along the way, a vicar and his wife, the family of the stationmaster, an organist, a dying girl all make their way into and effect the narrator's life.
The author's writing style fits perfectly with the story, creating a literary gem worthy of your attention.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "ankhatneck" on November 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
A month in the country, the movie which starred Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh was shown in 1987, but as usual, the book is better than the movie.
Lovely and beautiful in its simplicity, the tale of two great war survivors healing their battle-scarred minds in the village of Oxgodby is one of my favourite novel.
Watching the tape recently, I was strucked by the difference between the Birkin in the movie and that of the book. The Birkin in the movie is one-dimensional and the people around him, save Alice Keach is unpleasant. To exorcise this image of the Birkin of the movie, I re-read the book again and was immensely pleased at the Birkin of the novel, alive and likeable but certainly not flawless. The Alice Keach of the world would definitely falls head over heel for him.
The beauty of the novel is further enhanced by the portrayal of the healing process in Birkin's nightmarish experiences as a war veteran. He and Moon are not your typical citizens from a nation of victims, where crisis counsellors would intervene and encourage those ceaseless and endless whinings whenever fate deal them a bad hand, instead they resolved the inner demons through themselves, in their own unique way.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Brianton on May 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the only book that I have ever owned which I wore out reading it. I am now on my second edition and each year I read it and I never lose the feeling of that summmer in the English countryside.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Many of the reviews already posted paint an accurate picture of what this beautiful book has to offer. There is little to add save, perhaps, an English perspective. At first glance this book is an exquisite evocation of a lost England, a lost world. But I wouldn't want the presumably mainly American readership of this site to think that it is all Merchant-Ivory daydream material. Read this book and you will breathe in a little of a slow summer evening air in a village where the past is so palpable it almost overpowers the present and yet where life as we know it is lived. I can't describe it with due justice, but this book captures a hint of the multi-layered past and present that makes up rural England, together with the way in which that past sometimes heals the present. I recognise the world this book describes. I grew up there.
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