Excerpt: A Month in the Country by JL Carr is the story of war veteran Tom Birkin and the unforgettable summer he spends in the country uncovering and restoring a medieval wall mural inside an old country church. It is a journey of discovery for Tom Birkin, both in regards to his work and rediscovery of self after the trauma and ravages of his war experiences.
When Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War steps off the train and sets foot in the small village of Oxgoodby in the English countryside on a dark night, little does he know of the masterpiece that awaits him in a little, old forgotten church, far away from the city and the eyes of the art experts of the world. Tom is just grateful to land a job, his first one after the War. He has been wounded, both physically and mentally from the War, and it is his hope that given time, he will be able to recover from it. The twitch that encumbers the left side of his face is a tell-tale sign of his past but what his face does not reveal is the disillusionment, the sense of futility that he feels regarding his part in the war.
Unceremoniously he is invited to sleep in the belfry of the church he is restoring. The Vicar, who has commissioned him, is a cold man who discusses the terms of the contract in exacting terms.
When Tom wakes up in the belfry the next morning he is surrounded by the immense beauty of the Yorkshire countryside captured at the height of summer. The countryside, the village people who slowly impinge upon his solitary life help Tom to slowly recover from the ravages of his past. In the Vicar’s wife, Tom discovers a lonely spirit. A lovely woman who seems trapped in a terribly lifeless marriage and who Tom secretly forms an attachment for.
As Tom toils, day after day to restore the mural to its former beauty and eminence, so too does Tom’s heart undergo a restoration of sorts.
The language of the book is not the most fluid but the writing conveys the immense beauty of the time spent in the country and the experiences had there. It is a book that has left a lasting impression on me, long after I have set it down.
This is a beautiful and meaningful summer read.