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All Among the Barley (2018)

por Melissa Harrison

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1377150,341 (4.26)4
The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember, although the Great War still casts its shadow over the fields and villages around her beloved home, Wych Farm. Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to document fading rural traditions and beliefs. For Edie, who must soon face the unsettling pressures of adulthood, the glamorous and worldly outsider appears to be a godsend. But there is more to the older woman than meets the eye. As harvest time approaches and pressures mount on the entire community, Edie must find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.… (más)
Añadido recientemente porbiblioteca privada, KathrynEastman, octal, philayres, PennyAnne, Faradaydon, NeethuVijai, Ros_biscuits

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Mostrando 1-5 de 7 (siguiente | mostrar todos)
In rural Suffolk in the 1930's the effects of the Great War still loomed over those working the land. There was some change in the air though, modernisation was slowly happening despite the global Great Depression. For everything that was moving on, there was as much standing still too. At Wych Farm, they farm the land in the old way and everyone, including the fourteen-year-old Edie Mather, is still expected to help with the harvest.

In these uncertain times the appearance of Constance FitzAllen from the heady heights of the capital looking for stories in the rural economy and hoping to capture the old ways before they disappear for good. For all her glamour, FitzAllen brings with her ideas that seem quite innocent at first, yet have deeply sinister and radical roots. As Edie finishes school and has to decide what she does next, the appeal of heading to London grows on her and she hopes that it will take her away from the unwanted attention she is getting from a lad from a nearby farm. Things are coming to a head as FitzAllen starts to push her agenda to the villagers in the pub one night.

As with her previous books, the natural world is the very bedrock of this story, but this time she has woven in the hardship of farming the 1930's as well as the alarming rise of nationalism in the UK that had certain parallels to Germany. Draped over all of this is the story of Edie as she reaches a crossroads in her life, unsure of what to do, wanting to not be the baby of the family anymore, but fearful of the future. There is something about Harrison's novels that resonate with me and in All Among the Barley, her writing is lyrical and eloquent without feeling rose-tinted and sentimental; there is proper drama within these pages. It feels authentic too, the research that Harrison must have undertaken to get the details right for the season, the region and the language spoken at the time. It evokes standing in that field feeling the late summer breeze brushing the barley. There are beautiful maps by Neil Gower too! I can highly recommend this book from Melissa Harrison, her stature with words increases with every book she writes. It is timely too as it feels that history is repeating itself at the moment. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
If you're interested in early 20th century English wheat & barley farming then this is the book for you! There's a lot of detail (and language - so many words I've never met before) about farming methods and farming life, much of which is slightly peripheral to the story, but was somehow presented in a way that made me interested enough to keep reading. I guess my main engagement with this book came from the relationship between the naive country teenage girl, Edith, and the mysterious, sophisticated and clever visitor from London, Connie. Connie's real purpose in visiting is, however, not revealed until the final few pages of the novel and most of our attention is taken up with the story of the quotidian life of English farmers, between the wars. Patriarchy, superstition, hard physical labour, tradition, family values, parental obedience. Yep, all that stuff we've now gladly said goodbye to. Sorry, Melissa Harrison, but I think I've now said goodbye to you, too. ( )
  oldblack | Sep 17, 2019 |
It is 1934 and Edith is a 14-year-old girl living on her family’s farm somewhere in East Anglia. She has just left school and now helps her parents in the house and on the farm, while escaping into her obsessions with books and daydreams. Awkward, shy and clever, Edith didn’t quite fit in at school and has become increasingly lonely ever since her older sister Mary left home to get married. She feels as if she is waiting for something but she doesn’t know what.

One day a woman named Connie arrives from London to research rural life and traditions. The independent Connie seems very glamorous and sophisticated to Edith and even wins over some of the more reluctant villagers, persuading them to share their farming and household techniques, along with the old stories, songs and superstitions, so she can write them up for her magazine articles. But it gradually emerges that there is more to Connie than appears at first sight…

There are hints right from the start that Connie’s interest in the villagers is based on an ignorant and idealised preconception of country life, that she is patronising and seeing them as rural archetypes rather than as individual human beings. The novel cleverly shows how Edith is made uneasy by Connie’s approach but is not able to articulate why. She is young, vulnerable and bewitched by the promise of a different kind of life (urban, exciting, educated) that Connie brings with her. It is possible to sense from early on in the novel that Connie’s nostalgic views of the land and Britain’s rural heritage may be darker and more political than she first reveals, but it is still intriguing to see her true opinions being revealed and the reactions by the farmers as she tries to recruit them to her cause.

All Among The Barley is also a very compelling portrait of female adolescence. Melissa Harrison writes very evocatively about Edith’s feeling of being an outsider, her growing sexuality and the incidents of sexual violence that she feels unable to speak about. I can’t remember reading such powerful writing about a teenage girl’s anger and what happens to it when it is unexpressed and cannot find an outlet. The way in which the reader can see Edith grow in independence and power only makes what happens towards the end of the novel all the more tragic.

What I particularly like about this novel is the way it portrays cultural appropriation, the relationship between researcher and subject, and how a way of life or group of people can be misrepresented by an outsider’s view. This is all written about in an understated way but it had a strong emotional impact on me and adds a self-reflective layer to the novel, deepening its exploration of these ideas and making the lives of John, Doble and Edith’s family seem even more precious and threatened.

There is also some vivid writing about the natural world and the countryside. As Edith becomes more disturbed, the descriptions become more intense, creating an almost supernatural quality to the landscape that stayed in my mind after I’d finished the book.

All Among the Barley brings to light historical events that I knew very little about (the growth of fascism in Britain in the 1930s and the treatment of some patients in mental hospitals throughout the 20th century) and is a deeply political book. Its strength lies also in the character of Edith and her struggles to work out her own opinions, express her feelings and find a place for herself in the world. The fact that this is prevented from happening makes the end of the book very unsettling and moving.
  papercat | May 9, 2019 |
‘All Among the Barley’ by Melissa Harrison is set in a small world, the world of Wych Farm and the village of Elmbourne, in the inter-war years. The story is introduced by Edith June Mather, now an old lady, and transitions into the story of one summer when she was a teenager. Hanging over the first few pages is an unspoken warning that events so long in the past can be forgotten or recalled in error and that Edith may not be a reliable storyteller.
But ‘All Among the Barley’ is more than a coming-of-age tale; it is a story of society adapting to change, a story which resonates today. It is 1933 in East Anglia and Edie Mather is thirteen years old, a clever well-read child who longs to fit in. She lives on the family farm where hardship is an everyday fact. Edie, balancing between childhood and womanhood, is unsure of what she should do with her life, unaware she has choices and at times overwhelmed by her seeming lack of power. Superstitions become real to her. This is a book combining the pragmatic facts of daily farm life, the looming presence of anti-semitism and fascism, with teenage volatility, fantasy and a little witchery. Into this tight-knit rural world walks city reporter Connie FitzAllen who is writing about the loss of the old rural ways. Connie becomes a catalyst for change for the whole community, not just Edie, and in ways not at first obvious. Despite initial distrust of strangers, the locals and Edie’s family become used to Connie’s presence and she becomes a stand-in older sister for Edie, dispensing advice and pushing behavioural boundaries.
Writing about nature with as light a hand as the flight of the birds she describes, Harrison combines agricultural change, rural poverty, the rise of anti-semitism, and the changing role of women. The role models available to Edie are her mother, who worked the land in place of men during the Great War but reverted to being a housewife afterwards; her sister Mary, married young and with a baby she is not sure she loves; and Connie, who tells Edie there is life outside Elmbourne. Harvest time approaches and decisions must be made; Edie’s father must sell his crop at the right time to get the best price while Edie, uncertain whose advice to listen to, receives a job offer based in the nearby town. In the heat of summer, reality merges with imagination and Edie loses the ability to judge what is real.
A beautiful and tragic novel flawed only by its slow descriptive pace and a rather sudden ending. I was left with the feeling that perhaps the author tackled too many issues for such a calm, contemplative novel.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jan 28, 2019 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 7 (siguiente | mostrar todos)
Steeped in the rhythms and rituals of country life, fascinated by its fables and folk stories, Edie is seized upon enthusiastically by Constance FitzAllen, an energetic young woman from London who has come to document the old rural traditions before they disappear. The bookish, awkward Edie, accustomed to being ignored, is immediately captivated by Connie’s kindness and her curiosity. Elmbourne’s other residents take a little longer to succumb, but Connie is cheerfully undaunted. Soon she is a fixture of village life, helping in the fields, cutting sandwiches for the local fete. It is only as harvest approaches and economic pressures begin to bite that the villagers understand she wants more from them than just their stories.
 
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The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember, although the Great War still casts its shadow over the fields and villages around her beloved home, Wych Farm. Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to document fading rural traditions and beliefs. For Edie, who must soon face the unsettling pressures of adulthood, the glamorous and worldly outsider appears to be a godsend. But there is more to the older woman than meets the eye. As harvest time approaches and pressures mount on the entire community, Edie must find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.

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