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All Among The Barley

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  272 ratings  ·  75 reviews
From the author of Costa-shortlisted and Baileys-longlisted At Hawthorn Time comes a major new novel. Set on a farm in Suffolk just before the Second World War, it introduces a girl on the cusp of adulthood.

Fourteen-year-old Edie Mather lives with her family at Wych Farm, where the shadow of the Great War still hangs over a community impoverished by the Great Depression.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 23rd 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  272 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Roman Clodia
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
’Well, I’m no anti-Semite, of course, but they’re not from here, and if we’re not careful they’ll mar the character of England forever – not to mention the way they undercut wages and take work away from ordinary people, just as the Irish did... We must rebuild the country, and we must put our own kind first!... There are hordes of them coming all the time – this country is being handed to them on a plate’

Sound familiar? This isn’t xenophobic Brexiteer rhetoric or a Trump rant but is put into
Gumble's Yard
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I am more familiar with Melissa Harrison’s nature writing and have bought her non-fictional "Rain: Four Walks In English Weather" as Christmas presents. However she is also a successful novelist – her second novel “In the Hawthorn Time” being shortlisted for the Costa Prize and longlisted for the Women’s Prize – and I had seen this book as an outsider for the Booker longlist (in fact given the theme that the judges seemed to pick out across their books I am perhaps surprised at its exclusion).

Bill Kupersmith
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
More than 40 years ago I found a book that changed how I looked at life and history. It was titled The Days that We have Seen by George Ewart Evans. (At one point in this novel we encounter a grocer’s van belonging to G & E Evans and I suspected the author Melissa Harrison was telling us something.) He had been a schoolmaster in Suffolk but became fascinated by recollections by country folk of the old days, what life was like before the 1914-1918 war. He recorded their stories and depicted t ...more
Paul Fulcher
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
"The spring she is a young maid who does not know her mind,
The summer is a tyrant of a most ungracious kind,
But the autumn is an old friend that does the best he can
To reap the golden barley and cheer the heart of man.

All among the barley, oh who would not be blithe
When the free and happy barley is smiling on the scythe!

The wheat he’s like a rich man, all sleek and well-to-do;
The oats they are a pack of girls, all lithe and dancing too;
The rye is like a miser, he’s sulky, lean and small
Olive (abookolive)
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
See my review on booktube:
Claire Fuller
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
All Among the Barley started rather heavy-handedly with the 1930s farming research that Harrison has clearly thoroughly done, but once I settled into that and the slow quiet story, I came to love it. She brings the time and the location so vividly to life with wonderful descriptions of nature, that the fact that everything seemed to happen in the final quarter of the novel didn't matter.
All Among The Barley - Melissa Harrison's third novel - opens in Autumn 1933, and we meet 14-year-old Edith who lives on a Suffolk farm with her family. England is still recovering from the First World War, and Edith is increasingly aware of how she doesn't fit in among her peers and family members. Enter Constance FitzAllen, a liberal woman from London, visiting the countryside to document rural traditions and the lifestyles of its people. Edith strikes up a friendship with Constance, and this ...more
Harrison brings 1930s rural England to life stylishly in this story of a teenage girl trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life. The summer and autumn of 1934 are momentous for Edie Mather as she sheds her innocence and illusions. She’s being courted by Alf Rose, and isn’t sure she likes it; she learns some unpleasant truths about her family; and she looks up to Constance FitzAllen, a career woman from London who arrives in the village to write a column about the old ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The perfect read for me this month - the long, hot summer of 1934 reflecting this unusual summer of 2018. For farmers in the depressed 1930s, the prospect of a good harvest at last couldn’t have come a moment too soon but the weather can be fickle and they are short of manpower after WWI - will they be able to pull it off? We have a glimpse of this feverish time through the eyes of 14-year-old Edie - a studious, unworldly, impressionable girl, young for her years, suggestible and superstitious. ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Melissa Harrison’s description of an English rural community in the beginning of the 20th century feels incredibly real; detailed and honest. As a daughter of a farmer, having grown up in the countryside, I felt an extra connection to the setting. The methods have of course developed, but the atmosphere has common features and farmers are still in weather’s mercy. However, All Among the Barley is far from an idyllic depiction. In the life of the main character, a 14-year-old Edie Mather, books a ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A slow burn, this book starts off as a lovely, subtle, rural coming of age story. By the end though it has completely wormed its way into the core of you.

The protagonist, Edie, is the young female bookworm’s dream; a loner and a sensitive idealist with a rich inner world, Edie is intelligent and receptive, a feminist in an especially patriarchal society. She develops coping mechanisms during a time when she is vulnerable and powerless herself, whilst also being surrounded by vulnerability. As a
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
In rural Suffolk in the 1930's the effects of the Great War still loomed over those working the land. There was some change in the air though, modernisation was slowly happening despite the global Great Depression. For everything that was moving on, there was as much standing still too. At Wych Farm, they farm the land in the old way and everyone, including the fourteen-year-old Edie Mather, is still expected to help with the harvest.

In these uncertain times the appearance of Constance FitzAllen
Anukriti Malik
Rating : 2.5/5
Not very impressed with the development of the story and the writing style is not impressive.
Very slow.
Full review will be up soon!
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The English are already far too much in love with the past..."

What an absolute privilege to have been allowed an Advance Reading Copy via NetGalley of this book from Bloomsbury Publishing, written by Melissa Harrison. How was this book NOT long-listed for the Man Booker? I love some of the other books on that list this year and All Among the Barley is the equal of those novels - it may well be my favourite novel of 2018. This book deserves accolades!

This novel starts out as a rich pastoral stor
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Melissa Harrison was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award and longlisted for the Baileys Prize for At Hawthorn Tim. A timeless and memorable novel. With her third novel All Among the Barley (Bloomsbury) I am predicting great things. This is just the most wonderful piece of writing. This is set in 1933 to the backdrop of Wych Farm in Suffolk this is a story as seen by the 14-year-old girl Edie Mather. Although not released until August 23rd I am giving readers a little glimpse of thi ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, finished
This novel was well received by the Saturday Review panel (BBC R4) though by the time my library copy came through I’d forgotten most of what they’d said apart from the novels adumbration with Twenties and Thirties fascism - indeed and noted, so I was more surprised to also find the additional theme of witchcraft signaled by Edie’s reading of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s first novel ‘Lolly Willowes’, (though maybe I should have been more alert to the farm’s name) a comparison would be interesting.

Another entry in the category of recently published books described as “timely”, “relevant” and “resonant”. Edie Mather is a farmer’s daughter in 1930s Suffolk. Her knowledge about farm work and rural traditions is eagerly sought by Constance FitzAllen, who is collecting information about Olde Englande for a project whose politically-tinged dubiousness the reader will spot from a mile away. I could have done without the very end, which establishes where Edie is now and explains a few comments ea ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The joy of Melissa Harrison's writing is in her skill in evoking the beauty of the English countryside which had me transported ,as I read ,to a walk along the 1930's hedgerows in which I coul smell the mud and the trees,glimpse birds flying past, and felt as if should I peeped over the cover as I was reading I would be able to observe the books heroine ,14 year old Edie Mather, walking into the cold river. Her writing is full of the joy of nature but like 'at Hawthorn time' she also creates a t ...more
William Koon
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
From George Orwell’s 1984 to Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here to Philip Roth’s brilliant The Plot Against America, we can add All Among The Barley as a cautionary tale on the paths we take towards totalitarianism. Melissa Harrison does other wonderful things with her novel of an adolescent protagonist Edith Mather in rural 1930’s England. Her sense of place is Fauknerian.

WWI figures greatly in the work through the shadows it casts. But one of the main characters is nature. Harrison is one of
Harshita Gupta
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are books which leave you in a state of equanimity and serenity, and All Among the Barley is one such book. ‘Marvellous’ is the word which immediately came to my mind when I finished this book. Undoubtedly, the book has been added to my favoured list of this year.
All Among the Barley centers around the life of Edie who is a 14-year-old girl staying at Wych Farm with her family and helps her father and brother in the harvest of Barley. The book is set in 1933 portraying the lives of people
Laura Spira
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an interesting book, beautifully written, full of lyrical descriptions of the East Anglian countryside in the 1930s. Which was a fairly hostile place, where farming families battled with nature and a punishing economic environment while still coming to terms with the loss of menfolk in the first world war. The challenge of change is a strong theme: new technology clashes with lingering superstitious beliefs. Edith, the narrator, now an old woman, remembers her teenage years: a clever, we ...more
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book will stay with me. On the surface, it's a simple tale of country girl Edie, who's recently left school at fourteen, though she could have gone far academically. She - for it's written in the first person - describes her day-to-day country world with affecting lyricism. Then Constance from London comes along, to document the lives of the villagers: those people who, Constance thinks, nourish England's traditional way of life. There's Edie's deceased grandmother. Was she a witch? She was ...more
young girl coming of age in rural inter-war England

her struggles with encroaching adulthood and sexual assault, a social order where women are excluded from discussions and decisions, and the progress of the world to a more mechanised one

her adolescent fascination with her own internal thoughts and apparent emergent witch-craft powers
her relationship to Connie, an irreverent city lady, come to document and promote the idyllic rural ways of the past, but ultimately promoting a political idealism
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The writer's knowledge and love of the natural world pours off the page and it's enchanting. It feels threaded through the characters and the plot, I never felt the author's hand and eye in the details and I think it's so rare to see this kind of writing that works so well, including the non human in the influences on the characters.
I thought the themes of the book were fascinating and pertinent but I didn't click with the narrator. By the end of the book I understood her better but for a while
Rebecca Bowyer
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
All Among the Barley is a gorgeously written new historical fiction novel set in 1930s rural England. It’s a slow burn of a book with some deeply relevant messages for us today.

With gorgeous writing and a strong sense of place it’s a really lovely to read. And so well written you almost don’t care what it’s about!

What I eventually realised is that All Among the Barley is, in fact, two stories in parallel – the main story that 14-year-old bookworm Edie records in first person of her life on the l
Ashwini Abhyankar
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounded up to 5 because it's that good.

I had heard of Melissa Harrison before, or rather it’s better to say that I had read of Melissa Harrison’s book before I picked up this one. I requested it on NetGalley simply because it sounded like it was something I would dearly enjoy reading. I was proven correct, thankfully.

The story starts with Edie, a young girl, living on the family farm. The very start of the book, we are given a foreboding beginning to the story. Edith tells us about herself a
David Bruce
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel shouldn’t have appealed to me as I’m male, urban and not-at-all a believer in the good old days. I wouldn’t have picked it up in a bookshop. But that would have been my loss. It establishes a near-idyllic picture of rural England between the wars, full of lost behaviours and rich with sensory detail. Only very gradually does it become clear that this idyll is not what’s really being lived. Dark forces of all kinds become apparent, emerging very subtly, so that often I didn’t spot them ...more
Katrina Oliver
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book, I loved this and am seeking out the author’s previous novels. Set in the early 1930s, Edie is the teenage daughter of a tenant farmer. Farming is not going well and the family are finding it difficult to make ends meet, Edie’s father is finding it particularly difficult. Edie was born and brought up on the farm,( the author’s descriptions of the farm and farming life are particularly well written and beautiful), and has recently left school to help on the farm. Edie i ...more
Linda Hepworth
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fourteen-year-old Edie Mather lives, with her parents and older brother, Frank, on Wych Farm in Suffolk. Her sister Mary is now married with a baby and, struggling with adolescent anxieties, Edie is desperately missing their previous closeness. She is a bright young woman who snatches every opportunity she can to escape into the fields to read, resisting her parents’ calls for her to help on the farm, even when this means she will return home to a hiding. Every member of the family is expected t ...more
Michael Bishop
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent narrative about one family's struggle to survive on the land between two world wars, seen through a young girls eyes; and the tensions between those rooted in the past, and those looking forward. Throw in a patronising right-wing observer and you have an excellent novel.
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Melissa Harrison is the author of the novels Clay and At Hawthorn Time, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize, and one work of non-fiction, Rain, which was longlisted forthe Wainwright Prize. She is a nature writer, critic and columnist for The Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian, among others. Her new novel All Among the Barley is du ...more