Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

Yesterday I finished reading Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson’s new book which will be published in September. I’ll write about it in a later post. Although I’m still reading The Return of the King and The Island, I wondered what I’d like to read next. I was thinking of reading  Lion by Conn Iggulden, the first in a new series ‘The Golden Age’, set in Ancient Greece in the 5th century BC. But, today I wasn’t in the mood for ancient historical fiction and fancied something more rural and more modern – and spotted All Among the Barley in a pile of books waiting to be read. It’s set on a farm in Suffolk just before the Second World War.

Prologue

Last night I lay awake again, remembering the day the Hunt ran me down in Hulver Wood when I was just a girl.

And then Chapter 1:

My name is Edith June Mather and I was born after the end of the Great War. My father, George Mather, had sixty acres of arable land known as Wych Farm; it is somewhere not far from here, I believe. Before him my grandfather Albert farmed the same fields, and his father before him, who ploughed with a team of oxen and sowed by hand.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

Unlike Doble, whose family had been tied to ours for generations, John was what we in the village called a ‘furriner’, having been born sixty miles or more north of us, where our clay gave way to flat, rich peat.

Synopsis from Amazon:

WINNER OF THE EU PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

‘BOOK OF THE YEAR’ NEW STATESMAN, OBSERVER, IRISH TIMES, BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE

The fields were eternal, our life the only way of things, and I would do whatever was required of me to protect it.


The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember, though the Great War still casts a shadow over the cornfields of her beloved home, Wych Farm.

When charismatic, outspoken Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to write about fading rural traditions, she takes an interest in fourteen-year-old Edie, showing her a kindness she has never known before. But the older woman isn’t quite what she seems.

As harvest time approaches and pressures mount on the whole community, Edie must find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.

I chose this book because earlier this year I enjoyed Melissa Harrison’s novella, Rain: Four Walks in English Weather, which is about four rain showers, in four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor. I like the way she writes about the natural world and All Among the Barley looks as though it will bring to life a world governed by the old rural traditions, in an evocation of place and a lost way of life.

What do you think? Have you read this book ?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Rain by Melissa Harrison

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

I’ve just started reading Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison, a ‘meditation on the English landscape in wet weather.’ She describes four walks in the rain over four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor.

The Book begins with an Introduction:

What does rain mean to you? Do you see it as a dreadful inconvenience, a strange national obsession, or an agricultural necessity? We love to grumble about it, yet we invent dozens of terms to describe it and swap them gleefully; it trickles through our literature from Geoffrey Chaucer to Alice Oswald, and there are websites and apps that mimic its sound, soothing us while we work or sleep. Rain is what makes the English countryside so green and pleasant; it’s also what swells rivers, floods farms and villages and drives people out of their homes.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56 is in the chapter about her walk in the Darent Valley, in Kent, in August:

Behind the cumulonimbus currently discharging itself over the Darent Valley, more are forming; the afternoon will see thunder and lightning over much of the south-east of England, including London, less than twenty miles away.

Synopsis from Amazon UK:

Whenever rain falls, our countryside changes. Fields, farms, hills and hedgerows appear altered, the wildlife behaves differently, and over time the terrain itself is transformed.

In Rain, Melissa Harrison explores our relationship with the weather as she follows the course of four rain showers, in four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor.

Blending these expeditions with reading, research, memory and imagination, she reveals how rain is not just an essential element of the world around us, but a key part of our own identity too.

I think I’m going to enjoy this book.

About the Author:

Melissa Harrison is a novelist, children’s author, journalist and nature writer. She contributes a monthly Nature Notebook column to The Times, and also writes regularly for the FT Weekend, the Guardian and the New Statesman. Her most recent novel, All Among the Barley, was the UK winner of the European Union Prize for Literature. It was a Waterstones Paperback of the Year and a Book of the Year in the Observer, the New Statesman and the Irish Times. At Hawthorn Time was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, while Rain: Four Walks in English Weather was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize.