Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Larchfield” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.60  ·  Rating details ·  636 ratings  ·  114 reviews
It's early summer when a young poet, Dora Fielding, moves to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and her hopes are first challenged. Newly married, pregnant, she's excited by the prospect of a life that combines family and creativity. She thinks she knows what being a person, a wife, a mother, means. She is soon shown that she is wrong. As the battle begins for her ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 8th 2018 by riverrun
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Larchfield, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Larchfield

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  636 ratings  ·  114 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Larchfield
Emer (A Little Haze)
Sometimes a book captures our hearts and minds in the first few pages as this one did for me...

And sometimes, sadly, that feeling is all too fleeting.

This book had a premise that appealed very much to me. It primarily focused on a young poet, Dora, living in modern times. She had just left all she ever knew behind her and moved to Scotland with her new husband where she would give birth.
Running alongside Dora's story was a fictionalised account of the time the poet W.H. Auden lived in
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
With thanks to Quercus Books for the opportunity to read this.

An interesting take on the theme of feeling an outsider, and an unwelcome outsider at that. Two stories are intertwined very effectively and with great originality. The 21st century narrator is Dora, an aspiring poet. A natural city-dweller and from England, at several months pregnant she relocates with her architect husband to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland. A difficult premature birth and probable post-natal depression,
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
Polly Clark is already a successful poet - she was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize - and this, her first novel, won the Mslexia novel competition when it was still in manuscript. As far as debut novelists go she seems like a sound bet and Larchfield doesn't disappoint. It's a beautiful and accomplished piece of writing with smooth resonant prose and rhythmic pacing that make it a delight to read. Clark shows a delicate mastery over dialogue too, which I often find a sticking point in first ...more
Moray Teale
I received a free advance copy of Larchfield in return for an honest and unbiased review

When it comes to beautiful writing Polly Clark is immensely talented. Her prose is wonderfully and fittingly poetic if occasionally to mannered to be natural, and Larchfield and Helensburgh evocatively described. Auden is as melancholy and thoughtful as one would imagine, with bouts of self-doubt and flashes of brilliance and verve. He is young and struggling to find his way in his work and the world, forced
Mike Sumner
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I completed reading Larchfield on New Year's Day. It is an unusual book, weaving the lives of historical characters with Dora Fielding, a young poet, who moves with her husband to Helensborough on the west coast of Scotland. This is small town life at its most excrutiating and it starts to smother Dora, who is looking to find her true self. What to do?

When Dora discovers that the poet Wystan H. Auden lived in Helensborough in the 30s Dora finds a way to escape reality. This is handled by Polly
Vikki Patis
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I confess, I knew nothing of W.H. Auden before downloading Larchfield, but he seems like an incredibly fascinating individual. Clark introduces us to Auden as a recently published poet, heading north to join the teaching staff at a school in Helensburgh, Scotland. A homosexual in a time where being gay was illegal, Auden is careful and secretive, but he cannot help how deeply he falls in love - or with whom.

Dora, too, is a great character. Newly married, mother to a premature baby, Dora loses
Jackie Law
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Larchfield, by Polly Clark, is an intricately constructed tale of the devastating impact of prejudice and hate. Set over two distinct yet entwined time periods, it introduces the reader to two young poets – Wystan Auden and Dora Fielding. Both have recently had their debut collections accepted for publication but, for personal reasons, have left the supportive circle of the Oxford literary elite to live in the Scottish coastal town of Helensburgh.

The book opens in 1930 when Wystan travels north
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Atmospheric, quirky and promising, but I felt that the narrative got too tangled up in its own mists and missing the opportunity for more poignant reflections on topics such as isolation, mental health, motherhood, identity and artistic expression.
One of the most beautifully written novels of 2017 so far and I have no doubt will feature as one of my books of the year. Larchfield the debut novel by Polly Clark already shortlisted for the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize is one book that should be on everyone’s ‘must read’ books this Spring. I have high expectations for this book through 2017.

A novel set over two time-frames firstly during the early years of the 1930’s and a young poet W H Auden was based at Larchfield School and then to the
Vivienne Yudaken
So far my book of the year
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LARCHFIELD by Polly Clark is an utterly compelling, emotional read with a completely unique storyline. In this novel, we meet Dora, a poet who is recently married, now pregnant, and has recently moved to Helensburgh in Scotland. Hoping that this will be her new beginning where she will finally come into herself, it is not long before Dora realises her mistake. Struggling with her creativity and sense of self, and constantly at odds with her hostile neighbours who seem to influence everyone ...more
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two timelines, two poets. One is Wytsan Hugh Auden, about to embark on a career as a schoolmaster at boys school Larchfield, Helensburgh, a small coastal town on the west coast of Scotland.
The other is Dora, recently married and expecting her first child moves to Helensburgh to start on her new life.
Both are full of optimism and, a hope that the new starts will provide the happiness and fulfillment. they are looking for.
But life is never that straight forward as Dora and Wystan are about to
Mary Lou
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dora, an academic and poet, moves to Helensburgh on the coast of Scotland with her new architect husband. They buy an apartment, the downstairs part of a grand old house, and she starts to organise her new life as she awaits the birth of her baby.
Her plan falters when the baby arrives early, and she finds herself lonely and fearful, with her husband at work, no family or friends, and upstairs neighbours from hell.
While out walking one day, Dora happens upon the site of Larchfield, the boarding
Janie Gibson
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was incredibly beautiful so that you were drawn along and with the characters as their lives unfolded at Larchfield, in Helensburgh, in Berlin. The characters were ‘real’ living, breathing, hurting. Each character was skilfully drawn, even minor ones. One cared what happened to them and we were apprehensive for the sensitive ones in a small town. I feel it is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The prose in this book is exquisite, and I can't wait to read everything else that Polly Clark publishes. It is the interwoven stories of W. H. Auden in the 1930s and Dora Fielding, a young writer in the present day. The novel is set in Helensburgh, Scotland and a good portion happens at Larchfield, the school at which Auden taught for two years, hence the title. Auden is struggling with loneliness, his sexuality, and generally fitting in, all the while trying to write beautiful poetry. Dora is ...more
Anne Goodwin
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: debut-novelists
Poet Polly Clark’s debut novel is a beautifully written story of creativity, loneliness and identity, and a furious indictment of contemporary society’s neglect of a new mother’s needs.
Full review
Two novels about writers and the real-life characters who get beneath their skin
Victoria Farrow
"He can write about a hero, but he cannot be one."

Larchfield is one of those books that is well written, has fleshed-out characters and covers interesting themes, but it's also one I just could not get into. I should like it, I know, it ticks all the boxes but I really struggled to finish it. Maybe I'm just not intellectual enough. I only know a couple of W. H. Auden's poems and not much else about him. Whatever it was I just didn't connect with this book.

Even though I didn't particularly enjoy
Maya Panika
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A deeply compelling read - not often a happy one, but always engaging and absorbing and so beautifully written. A story of disparate lives that cross over time: the 24 year old poet Wystan - WH - Auden, a poet with a young but good reputation, forced to teach for a living in a Scottish boys school; gay at a time when it was dangerous to be so. and Dora, another outsider - English and also an acclaimed and published poet - and a new mother, suffering from severe post-natal depression, in a ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This brilliantly innovative novel has two time lines. In the present day, Dora is a young, English academic and poet who moves with her older husband to the remote town of Helensburgh in Scotland. Pregnant when they arrive, the baby is born prematurely and Dora soon becomes trapped on her own, isolated in a cold house with hostile neighbours upstairs, the sinister, devout Christians Mo and Terrence. Under their influence, she feels that the whole town hates and resents her just because Mo and ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fiona Blond
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the things I learn from books. This one offered a lesson in the poet WH Auden, a understanding of the effects of isolation that can effect your mental state. And it was a interesting example of neighbour dynamics, pre war mindsets and private boys schools. It held so much but was never difficult to follow.
I found the 2 time dimensions wonderfully linked and explained. The way the story was woven together across these time periods was skilful and believable.
I would recommend it for
Lesley Anderson
Two stars are all I can summon for Larchfield. The beginning chapter had me anticipating a wonderful literary feast. I was mistaken. From Wystan's getting off the train in Helensburgh, the feast dwindled to a few scraps being thrown from the table, here and there. Some of the scraps were very tasty, though, I do acknowledge.

The characters of Dora and Mo were excruciating. The dialogue was pretty puerile. Kit and Terrence (with two rs!?) had very little credibility as indeed did most of the other
Libby Brickell
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took a few chapters but once I got into the two storylines I was hooked and couldn't put it down. An empathetic and utterly believable portrayal of mental illness and profound truths about the nature of love and loss.
Hannah (Sakurahan or ForeverBooks18)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katherine Sunderland
The most striking thing about this novel is how effortlessly Clarke transports the reader back in time for the story of Wystan Auden but also grounds you firmly in the present with Dora's storyline. The effect of this is an atmosphere of a kind of timelessness, which is effective because of the magical way the two story lines then intertwine. This sense of changing time and place is also a very effective way of capturing the physical and emotional escape both the main characters seek. This is a ...more
Jenny Cooper
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This book is about two characters, one real and one fictional. Both are poets and both spent a part of their lives in Helensburgh, separated in time by a number of decades. Wystan (WH Auden) spends two years as a schoolmaster at Larchfield School for boys in the 1930s. His narrative is loosely constructed around facts which are known about his time there. Struggling with the need to repress his homosexuality yet falling hopelessly in love, Wystan longs to escape the strictures of public school ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a book group read for Hunstanworth Village Hall Book Group. Copies of the book were provided by Quercus Books via The Reading Agency.
In 1930, a young man, torn apart by his illegal desire, stands on a deserted Scottish beach. Wystan H Auden is longing to be a great poet: longing too for someone who understands him. He scribbles down his telephone number, puts it in an empty milk bottle and flings it into the tea.
Decades late, Dora Fielding stands on he same beach, lost and desperate.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Larchfield is a tale of intertwining stories that eventually fuse together. Larchfield is the name of a school in Helensburgh in Scotland where W.H. Auden taught for two years as a young man. In this very accomplished first novel Polly Clark imagines Auden's years at Larchfield, and also takes the reader to Helensburgh in the present day, as seen through the eyes of a young woman, Dora Fielding.

Dora has moved to Helensburgh with her Scottish husband of a year, Kit, whose work has taken them
Larchfield is a chapter in the life of newly married young poet and soon to be mum Dora Fielding who moves from London to Helensburgh (a former haunt for wealthy shipbuilders in the 19 century) to be with her husband Kit. Undaunted by the prospect of a new life in a small town Dora hopes to blend family and creativity. Rather it initially excites her especially as she learns that another poet namely W H Auden resided there at the Larchfield School for boys. Clark ingenuously employs this ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Librarian
  • Love is Blind
  • The Man Who Saw Everything
  • Old Baggage
  • All Among The Barley
  • After the Party
  • Now We Shall Be Entirely Free
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton
  • The Sealwoman's Gift
  • The Valley at the Centre of the World
  • Ducks, Newburyport
  • The Cut Out Girl: A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found
  • The Lie of the Land
  • Svøm med dem som drukner
  • The Bee and the Orange Tree
  • Breaking & Mending: A Doctor’s Story of Burnout and Recovery
  • The Quaker (Duncan McCormack #1)
  • The Silence of the Girls
See similar books…
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“I'll do that,' says Wystan. He is restless and yet exhausted.” 0 likes
“Had she, in fact, betrayed herself? Talking with them, she missed her old self - deeply, painfully, like a friend. She felt grief pressing in on the afternoon.” 0 likes
More quotes…