A Month in the Country

A Month in the Country

by J.L. Carr

Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life.

But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 4.10
  • Pages: 135
  • Publish Date: October 31st 2000 by New York Review of Books
  • Isbn10: 0940322471
  • Isbn13: 9780940322479

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"But then, inevitably, as happens to most of us, first through Saturday umpiring, later Sunday chapel, I was drawn into the changing picture of Oxgodby itself. For a time." Tom Birken is summoned to the countryside from the teaming streets of London to practice his craft revealing a Medieval painting that was originally painted 500 years previously, and had been whitewashed over about a hundred years later. He emerged from the wreckage of that battle, shell shocked, and still three years later betrays himself with a stammer and twitching cheek when he is experiencing a stressful moment. A tremendous waterfall of color, the blues of the apex falling, then seething into a turbulence of red; like all truly great works of art, hammering you with its whole before beguiling you with its parts." Medieval era wall mural He meets a man named Moon who is camping in a tent in the cemetery and has been commissioned to find the bones of an ancestor for their patron. There is a story about Moon that you will have to read the book to discover. Oh and lets not forget that Birken meets a woman. I love it when an introduction fires up the reader to read the book. "Carr died in 1994 and his funeral service in the Kettering parish church was, in the words of Byron Rogers, 'like the passing of a spymaster.' He had such disparate interests that there seem to have been many J. She came alone and at the end was gone, just as abruptly, into the March afternoon.' No one knew her or could find out who she was--an ex-pupil, mistress, cricketer, flower-arranger, Sunday School teacher...but readers of A Month in the Country may feel that she had stepped out of its pages.

Using stunning prose combined with well developed characters, Carr's novella is perfect for a leisurely summer morning. It is through his and Alice's non relationship that allows Birkin to assess his own life situation. Carr develops characters in Birkin and Moon who are non believers yet are employed by a church. Carr's story is indeed appropriate for a lazy summer morning. A Month in the Country is a relaxing novella with strong characters for a summer day, and, like Birkin, when I was finished reading it, it was time to get on with my everyday life.

Tom Birkin is hired to reveal and restore a Medieval church mural, covered up over four-hundred years earlier. Yes, it describes a single month, with little backstory, even less afterstory, and not much happening, but Birkin emerges from Oxgodby changed for the better, and so did I, a little. Love the Country Birkin, a Londoner, discovers a visceral empathy with and appreciation of nature and the countryside from his very first morning. He loves letting the summer soak into me by eating outside, and soon feels part of the landscape. Love of Detail and Workmanship Birkins artistic sensitivity and training make him an excellent describer of furniture, machines, architecture, and even people and the broader context of ancient lives. When he realises the full wonder of what hes revealing, Birkin slows down, like a reader who doesnt want to finish a brilliant book. I love Carrs attention to detail and workmanship. Dark and Light This story is infused with summer sun: Ah, those days for many years afterwards their happiness haunted me. (view spoiler)Birkin learns that Moon was dishonourably discharged for homosexuality.

Employed to recover a concealed medieval painting on the wall of the local church, Thomas believes that a change of scenery will soothe the scars the bloodbath of war and a shattered marriage have imprinted on him. To feel pain means to be alive and the resolution to pursue happiness is a courageous vow that Thomas is willing to take. The fallen man of the mural painting couldnt have imagined that a fellow artist would recover his masterpiece, lost to the world under whitewash for more than five centuries. Thomas Birkin never envisioned being haunted by happiness fifty years after a life-altering moment that presented itself wrapped in balustrades of washed-out color.

This will likely enter the list of my all-time favorite books. And a longer evocation of the land he was coming to love: There was so much time that marvelous summer. (p 61) Simply put, this book has given me all I look for: a cascade of words that ring so true and are beautifully written; wonderfully realised characters even though we know them so briefly; a perfect setting (especially for an Anglophile who loves art and archaeology); and a simple story about complex people.

And although it was a slow reveal, within the first few pages I saw many more signs of promise, a little brush stroke here so that a particular character came into better focus, a little sketch there so that I gained a clearer idea of the background, a little foreshadowing so that I could make a stab at guessing the main theme, a little mystery so that I knew there remained riches yet to be discovered. As the pages read became greater than the pages left to read, I was able to guess at pretty much everything that remained to be told except for one or two details, but I still delighted in the manner of the telling and the little traces of humour inserted in the text like private jokes between the author and the narrator. It was clear to me too that there was no editorial interference; Carr shaped this book to fit the pattern and timing of the central theme, and without any thought for the dictates of the publishing world or any particular genre it might be expected to fit into.

Beautifully written, poetic small story.... Slow start though, the story has to grow on you. A damaged survivor of the 1st World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall painting.

Can you remember a time in your life when you were truly happy? Set in the summer of 1920, but related in 1978, an older Birkin is remembering the month during which he is hired to uncover a medieval mural in a church in northern England. This time serves as a salve on his heart, a reminder of the beauty of art, but also of nature, of simple pastoral idyls and country people. But, the older Birkin is aware that perfect moments can stretch into an imperfect life. This reader was aching for lovers to kiss in the church belfry, but instead, the fleeting month is chastely frozen in time, like a painting, full of promise and optimism.

The novel is also a deepest contemplation on the nature of art and history and the harmony of life 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, a loved face.

We lived in the same building, and on my first night in the city she took me out for a Mexican and we got hammered on strawberry daiquiris, and the evening slowly evolved into a strange date which she orchestrated with Scandinavian directness: You buy me a drink now. We went away together for a couple of weekends, and talked about past relationships; and most evenings in Ecuador ended with us on our balcony as the sun came up, finishing a bottle of rum and sharing stories. On the last night we just sat on our balcony for hours and had a bottle of rum and listened to the sounds coming out of the karaoke bar two doors down. And when we went back inside she brought me into her room, for the first time since I'd arrived, to say goodbye. After everything we went through we deserved to have it end in some shared moment of sexiness, instead of petering out the way it did. I have no room left to actually review this book, except to say that the situation I'm badly describing is one that novelists don't often try to address, preferring as they do to deal with actual, rather than potential, love affairs.

He failed the scholarship exam, which denied him a grammar school education, and on finishing his school career he also failed to gain admission to teacher training college. He worked for a year as an unqualified teacher one of the lowest of the low in English education at South Milford Primary School, where he became involved in a local amateur football team which was startlingly successful that year. This experience he developed into the novel How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup. He then successfully applied to a teacher training college in Dudley. In 1938 he took a year out from his teaching career to work as an exchange teacher in Huron, South Dakota in the Great Plains. At the end of his year in the USA Carr continued his journey westward and found himself travelling through the Middle East and the Mediterranean as the Second World War loomed. He returned to Huron, South Dakota, in 1957 to teach again on an exchange visit, when he wrote and published himself a social history of The Old Timers of Beadle County.