By J.L. Carr.
111 pages
Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1984.
ISBN # 0-89733-124-9.

Comments of Bob Corbett
May 2002

What a delightful small and gentle book to read sitting on my porch on these warm early spring days, sipping a lovely wine and enjoying the breezes.

It is 1920 and young Tom Birkin, having survived WWI, is off to the small unheralded village of Oxgodby in northern England to uncover a medieval painting on the wall of the local church. Both he and Charles Moon, an amateur archeologist, are working compliments of the will of an eccentric woman who recently died and left money for Birkin’s restoration and for Moon to find the bones of her Medieval ancestor.

Birkin arrives in the bitter of winter and stays much longer than the “month” of the title – I never could figure out the title – and slowly uncovers his painting, discovering he is working on a significant minor masterpiece of a painter whom he deduces eventually died when he fell from the scaffolding and the piece was finished by a much less talented apprentice.

Both Moon and Birkin are curiosities in the village and Birkin is visited nearly every day by precocious teen Kathy Ellerbeck and the beautiful wife of the minister, Alice Keatch. Birkin falls madly in love and Alice is tempted enough to offer herself to Birkin at the very end, but he has the good sense to refuse her and move on.

Not much happens in this small novel. Birkin uncovers his painting, enters into a world of shared experience with the author dead over 500 years, and a more immediate camaraderie with Charles Moon with whom he shares stories, hopes and many pints of ale.

Author Carr writes well, pacing the novel just as the village is paced, slow and easy, traditional as it can be. Yet he touches the lives of simple everyday folk in a way that each of us can see ourselves and recognize that it is the people who make the world go round less than the major events of wars, discoveries, and the rise and fall of empires.

A Month in the Country was a lovely few days in the spring sun and breezes of my front porch.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu

Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu