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At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

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Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2015.

Building to an extraordinary climax over the course of one spring month, At Hawthorn Time is both a clear-eyed picture of rural Britain, and a heartbreaking exploration of love, land and loss.

Costa Judges' comment: “Moving, atmospheric, quietly compelling and at times heartbreaking.”

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. ‘I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien.’ Those words of Sergei Rachmaninov form the epigraph to this beautifully wrought, unsettling novel of contemporary rural England. Set in the village of Lodeshill over the course of a spring month, the book tells the stories of incomers Howard and Kitty, local lad Jamie, and Jack, a vagrant farm worker who has spent time in the area in the past. As Howard and Kitty try to find a footing in the small community that they have recently joined after years of family life in London, so they also struggle to keep their marriage intact. Jamie has always lived in Lodeshill, but for him everything changed when his friend Alex suddenly left; and for Jack, in flight from a bail hostel, suspicion and prejudice are never far away. Building to an intriguing climax, this clear-sighted novel is a fine work.
~ Karen Howlett


At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

Four-thirty on a May morning: the black fading to blue, dawn gathering somewhere below the treeline in the east. A long, straight road runs between sleeping fields to the little village of Lodeshill, and on it two cars lie wrecked and ravished, violence gathered about them in the silent air. One wheel, upturned, still spins. Howard and Kitty have recently moved to Lodeshill after a life spent in London; now, their marriage is wordlessly falling apart. Custom car enthusiast Jamie has lived in the village for all of his nineteen years and dreams of leaving it behind, while Jack, a vagrant farm-worker and mystic in flight from a bail hostel, arrives in the village on foot one spring morning, bringing change. All four of them are struggling to find a life in the modern countryside; all are trying to find ways to belong.


'A magical, hypnotically strange book of love and dreams, tragedy and myth, At Hawthorn Time sent shivers down my spine. Soaked deep in hedgerows and fields, it is a profoundly unsentimental yet deeply compassionate meditation on searching for myth and meaning, on our need to belong, and the place of history in the history of place. Harrison is writing us a new kind of modern pastoral: peopled, raw, messy, and shining' Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk

'At Hawthorn Time is intensely moving, a book overshadowed by disaster but still careful, precise, and hypnotically beautiful' Evie Wyld

'Harrison's love of the natural world and its traditions vibrates poetically through every page, but this is an up-to-date reading of the national psyche ... Harrison's imagination is wonderfully strange, her writing beautifully assured and controlled. At Hawthorn Time is social satire, but also a political protest against the intensive and increasing privatisation of the countryside, and a love letter to the power of nature - which persists whether we understand it or not' -- Kate Saunders, The Times

'Top of anyone's reading pile should be two beautifully written and original recent English novels - Will Cohu's Nothing But Grass and Melissa Harrison's At Hawthorn Time' -- AS Byatt, Observer

'In graceful, measured and compelling prose, she can write whole pages about soil and stones, the hundred-year history of a hedge ... Her level gaze, crisp prose and sharp insight make her a fresh and valuable voice in both fiction and nature writing' Guardian

About the Author

Melissa Harrison's debut novel Clay won the Portsmouth First Fiction Award, was selected for Amazon's 'Rising Stars' programme and chosen by Ali Smith as a Book of the Year for 2013. A freelance writer, occasional photographer and columnist for The Times, the Weekend FT and the Guardian, she lives in south London. @M_Z_Harrison

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Melissa Harrison

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