All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison

Cover image of All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison
All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison

This book was mentioned on a booktube and it sounded like something I would like to read. And it was available at my local library.

Here’s the blurb

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. Glamorous outsider Constance FitzAllen arrives from London, determined to make a record of fading rural traditions and beliefs, and to persuade Edie’s family to return to the old ways rather than embrace modernity. She brings with her new political and social ideas – some far more dangerous than others.

For Edie, who has just finished school and must soon decide what to do with her life, Connie appears to be a godsend. But there is more to the older woman than meets the eye. As harvest time approaches and the pressures mount on the entire Mather family, Edie must decide whose version of reality to trust, and how best to save herself from disaster. 

A masterful evocation of the rhythms of the natural world and pastoral life, All Among the Barley is also a powerful and timely novel about influence, the lessons of history and the dangers of nostalgia.

This book spent a lot of time building up to a climax and then quickly finishing. Now, normally I like a novel where not much happens, but this one had so little happening and from the author’s note at the end, it is clear it had big themes it wanted to explore; antisemitism, rural communities, feminism, and the care of the mentally unwell.

To be fair, I did enjoy the portrayal of rural life in England in the 1930s, but I felt the book lacked pacing and, unusually, I thought the final third needed to be longer.

Another review.

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