The writing in this novella is lean and economical. It tells a tale that sets the hook and guides the reader through several surprises to the final reveal. For me, this book belongs on the same shelf with "The Ledge" (1959) by Lawrence Sargent Hall, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1952) by Ernest Hemingway and "To Build A Fire" (1908) by Jack London. As a teenager, Les Galloway (1912-1990) shipped out to New Zealand as a seaman and a few years later, dropped out of college to enlist in the Bolivian army. Most of his life he was a commercial fisherman out of San Francisco. His stories were published in Esquire and Prairie Schooner.
J.L. Carr captures a moment in time in England's rural north. The narrator is shell-shocked veteran, Tom Birkin, who tells of his weeks in Oxgodby in 1920 to restore a painting in the local church. The Pastor is a bitter and misunderstood man; his wife is a caged beauty. In a field nearby, another veteran, Charles Moon, digs for the bones of a 500 year-old victim of this village's ancestors. Tom's summer in the almost surreal Oxgodby is the tale of restoration of wounded souls, how the answers we seek are so often within our reach, and crafted in English that is a delight to read and re-read. I was reluctant to put this small book down.
J.L. Carr's A Month In The Country is a quiet masterwork.
Booker Prize shortlist in 1980.
Note: This edition of the novel can be difficult to find. First published in England in 1980, it has appeared in various small press editions since that time. I recommend the illustrated Quince Tree Press edition.