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A Month in the Country is the fifth novel by J. L. Carr, first published in 1980 and nominated for the Booker Prize. The book won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1980.

A Month in the Country  
First edition cover
Dust jacket of first edition - 1980
Author J.L. Carr
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Fiction
Publisher Harvester Press
Publication date 1980
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 111
ISBN 0855273283
OCLC Number 7168346
Dewey Decimal 823/.914 19
LC Classification PR6053.A694 M6
Preceded by How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup
Followed by The Battle of Pollocks Crossing

The plot concerns Tom Birkin, a World War I veteran employed to uncover a mural in a village church that was thought to exist under coats of whitewash. At the same time another veteran is employed to look for a grave beyond the churchyard walls. Though Birkin is an atheist there is prevalent religious symbolism throughout the book, mainly dealing with judgment. The novel explores themes of England's loss of spirituality after the war, and of happiness, melancholy, and nostalgia as Birkin recalls the summer uncovering the mural, when he healed from his wartime experiences and a broken marriage. In an essay [1] for Open Letters Monthly, Ingrid Norton praised the novel's subtlety:

The happiness depicted in A Month in the Country is wise and wary, aware of its temporality. When he arrives in Oxgodby, Birkin knows very well life is not all ease and intimacy, long summer days with “winter always loitering around the corner.” He has experienced emotional cruelty in his failed marriage. As a soldier, he witnessed death: destruction and unending mud. But the edges are brighter for it. Birkin’s idyll in the country is brought into relief by what Birkin has gone through in the past and the disappointments that, it is implied, await him. Carr’s great art is to make it clear that joy is inseparable from the pain and oblivion which unmake it.

Many of the incidents in the novel are based on real events in Carr's own life, and some of the characters are modelled on his own Methodist family. (The jacket illustration shows Tintagel Parish Church whereas the story is set in Yorkshire. The grave outside the churchyard wall was suggested by Tintagel where a number of early graves were encountered at Trecarne Lands and excavated.)

The novel is a set book as a part of some secondary school English courses. The story was made into a 1987 film, directed by Pat O'Connor and starring Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, Natasha Richardson and Patrick Malahide. The adaptation from the novel was by Simon Gray.


Publishing history

Special editions and translations

  • 1988 ISIS Large Print Books, ISBN 1850892539
  • 1990 Cornucopia Press (signed edition limited to 300 copies)
  • 1992 Un mois à la campagne Actes Sud, Arles (French), ISBN 978-2-8686-9854-4
  • 1992 William ap Thomas Braille, Braille edition, ISBN 1569562857
  • 1996 Een maand in de provincie Veen, Utrecht/Antwerp (Dutch)
  • 1999 The Folio Society, illustrated by Ian Stephens
  • 1999 Pasión en el campo, Andrés Bello, Barcelona (Spanish)
  • 2003 Ulverscroft Large Print Books
  • 2004 Un mes en el campo, Pre-Textos, Valencia (Spanish)
  • 2005 Un mese in campagna, Fazi Editore, Italy (Italian), ISBN 8881127067

External links


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