Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

A Month in the Country (novel)

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
1 Ratings
Rate This

Rate This

Language  English
Publication date  1980
Pages  111
Originally published  1980
Country  United Kingdom
4.1/5 Goodreads

Publisher  Harvester Press
Media type  Print (Hardback)
ISBN  978-0-85527-328-6
Author  J. L. Carr
Genre  Fiction
A Month in the Country (novel) t3gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcQNft0wbskv5byuHo
Preceded by  How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup
Followed by  The Battle of Pollocks Crossing
Similar  Works by J L Carr, Guardian Fiction Prize winners, Fiction books

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.


The story

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 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 book

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 text finishes with the words, 'Stocken, Presteigne, 1978' Although the book is set in North Yorkshire, Carr wrote early drafts while staying in his caravan in the top orchard at Stocken Farm, just outside Presteigne in Powys, Wales.

The novel is a set book as a part of some secondary school English courses.


With a screenplay by Simon Gray, the novel was made into a 1987 film, directed by Pat O'Connor and starring Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh, Natasha Richardson and Patrick Malahide. Shortly before his death, Dave Sheasby completed a radio adaptation of the book, which was first broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play in November 2010 and repeated in May 2012.

Publishing history

  • 1980 Harvester Press, Brighton (reprinted 1981, 1982) ISBN 978-0-85527-328-6
  • 1980 Penguin Books (reprinted nine times) ISBN 978-0-14-005862-8
  • 1983 St Martin's Press, New York, New York, USA, ISBN 0-312-54680-7, hardback (copyright date 1980, published July 1983)
  • 1984 Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, USA, (reprinted May 1985, September 1988) ISBN 0-89733-124-9, softback
  • 1985 Penguin Books ISBN 978-0-14-005862-8
  • 1987 Penguin Books ISBN 978-0-14-010559-9
  • 1991 The Quince Tree Press ISBN 978-0-900847-92-9
  • 2000 Penguin Classics, with an introduction by Penelope Fitzgerald, ISBN 978-0-14-118230-8. Reissued 1 December 2011.
  • 2000 New York Review of Books Classics, USA, ISBN 978-0-940322-47-9
  • 2003 The Quince Tree Press
  • 2010 Penguin Decades edition ISBN 978-0-14-104667-9
  • 2016 Penguin Modern Classics ISBN 978-0241252345. Reissued 7 April 2016
  • Special editions and translations

  • 1988 ISIS Large Print Books, ISBN 978-1-85089-253-3
  • 1990 Cornucopia Press (signed edition limited to 300 copies)
  • 1992 Un mois à la campagne Actes Sud, Arles (French), ISBN 978-2-86869-854-4
  • 1992 William ap Thomas Braille, Braille edition, ISBN 978-1-56956-285-7
  • 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)
  • 2002 Um Mês no Campo, Lisboa: Gradiva,1988 (Portuguese) ISBN 978-85-250-3537-0
  • 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 978-88-8112-706-1
  • 2007 O Vara la Tara, Univers, Bucharest (Romanian)
  • 2012 Um Mês No Campo, Editora Globo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (Portuguese) ISBN 978-85-2503-537-0
  • 2016 Ein Monat auf dem Land, DuMont Buchverlag (German), ISBN 978-3-8321-9835-0. Translated by Monika Köpfer.
  • References

    A Month in the Country (novel) Wikipedia