For anyone who feels at one with Nature, in all seasons, this book is a must-read. The lyrical description combined with the well-drawn characters and plot have resulted in a masterpiece in my view. Harrison’s book made me reach for Thomas Hardy and Laurie Lee from my own bookshelf. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of ALL AMONG THE BARLEY by MELISSA HARRISON –
“The autumn of that year was the most beautiful I can remember. For weeks after harvest-tide the weather stayed fine, and only slowly that year did summer’s warmth leave the earth.
In October, Wych Farm’s trees turned quickly and all at once, blazing into oranges and reds and burnished golds; with little wind to strip them the woods and spinneys lay on our land like treasure, the massy hedgerows filigreed with old-man’s-beard and enamelled with rosehips and black sloes. Along the winding course of the River Stound the alder carrs were studded with earthstars and chanterelles and dense with the rich, autumnal stink of rot ….
At dawn, dew silvered the spiders’ silk strung between the grass blades in our pastures so that the horses left trails where they walked, like the wakes of slow vessels in still water. At last, wintering fieldfares and thrushes stripped the berries from the lanes, and at night the four tall elms for which the farm was named welcomed their cold-weather congregations of rooks.”
Financial Times review – “A deeply atmospheric work, steeped in the rhythms and traditions of the English countryside … ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ and Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Shirley’ often came to my mind.”
New Statesman review – “An unflinching account of both the harshness and the beauty of rural life”