Andy's Reviews > A Month in the Country

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
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Mar 07, 2011

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Read in March, 2011

“I didn’t look like a Churchman. Indeed I looked like an Unsuitable Person likely to indulge in Unnatural Activities who, against his advice, had been unnecessarily hired to uncover a wall-painting he didn’t want to see, and the sooner I got it done and buzzed off back to sin-stricken London the better” (9).

In my quest to read 40 books this year, with a particular focus on my growing obsession over NYRB classics, I bought “A Month in the Country” in my second big batch of purchases. Based on a couple of favorable reviews, and the synopsis provided online, I felt that this would be a book I would quickly fall in love with.

I sort of did.

And I sort of didn’t.

Now here’s my dilemma, once again – and I realize I’m getting repetitive. I can almost see why this short novel is considered a minor classic: it has its own voice, it’s simple, it’s romantic and it’s quirky. It is the sort of journal entry we all wish we could write when something life-changing happens to us – yet we’ll never be able to transcribe our experiences so well.

But once again, I’m finding myself with an inability to have any real personal connection with the story’s protagonist – Tom Birkin.

A lot of this has to do with the very English-ness of this novel. While I can surely relate to the idea of going back to nature and a more simple life to find piece of mind, I have trouble when it comes to some in-jokes and character traits that tend to be particularly British. And since there is no typical plot in this novel (there is a plot), and the story is just a memoir of Carr/Birkin – I feel as though I missed out on some subtle cleverness.

This is a book worth reading again, because I enjoyed it and looking back to it about 12 hours after I have finished it, I think I undervalued it. Unlike most books, it ends wonderfully. Like really, one of the best endings I can think of for a book.

I should write more, but I really just want you to read the book. There are dozens and dozens of reviews online that go into more detail and will make you want to read it. You might love it right off the bat, or you might walk away realizing you just need to let it soak.
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