AT HAWTHORN TIME by Melissa Harrison


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Harrison (Clay, 2013) describes the small details and grand scope of nature in the hills and forests of Lodeshill, a village north of London, where multiple narratives of longing and loss converge.

The book ends and begins with the car accident that brings together disparate characters inhabiting the same landscape. Jack, who has been tramping for more than 20 years, returns to Lodeshill on foot, looking for seasonal work picking asparagus on one of its farms. Afraid of being caught skipping out on his prison release terms and arrested for trespassing, he sleeps in the woods and walks at night. Jack isn’t just disconnected from other people; he's deeply in tune with the Earth’s rhythms, noting them in journals; “it wasn’t just about staying unseen; it was a way to immerse himself in a world that most people didn’t know existed.” Kitty and Howard, married transplants, don’t know much about Lodeshill when they retire there to fulfill Kitty’s dream of country living. An aspiring painter, she immerses herself in local customs and history while her husband struggles to find his place in the village and in his marriage. Jamie, a young man who grew up in Lodeshill dreaming of a life on its farms, works robotically at a warehouse job, putting his passion into customizing his car. The impending sale of a farm with significance for both Jack and Jamie casts a shadow over the plot’s slow burn. Jamie’s grandfather, a former prisoner of war, captures the reader’s interest but is unfortunately one of many minor characters competing for attention.

This elegant novel’s true subject is its evolving pastoral setting, which is richer than its tableau of underdeveloped characters.

Pub Date: July 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62040-994-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2015


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