Melissa Harrison || At Hawthorn Time

At Hawthorn Time starts as an idyllic novel, a modern one about tramp Jack who escapes the civilized world and tries to live of the land. By choosing ancient paths that are no longer shown on maps he stays in direct contact with nature. Surviving by taking on day jobs at farms and pilfering vegetables from gardens. Jack arrives in Lodeshill where he crosses paths with Howard and Jamie. Jamie is an inborn of Lodeshill, his family goes back for generations. He is one of those lads who does not seem to realize that an education can come in handy and who is destined to go from one menial job to another. Howard is a retired businessman, a Londoner who has escaped to the country with his wife. Their marriage had been falling apart for ages, she seeks comfort in community, church and painting, he repairs pre-war radio’s. Jack, Howard and Jamie do not interact, they know of each other they are not acquainted. At the end of the novel it becomes evident why Harrison takes us along in their lives. The three are the victims of a car crash in which one of them dies and the others are injured severely. Harrison never reveals who dies. I am secretly wishing for it to be Jack. Not that I disliked him or disapproved of him, it’s just that Harrison makes it so clear that Jack no longer fits in the modern world. His days as a traveller become more and more difficult. He has to hide deep in the forest or conform to society. The loving way in which Harrison describers Jacks relationship with nature makes that I could not stand the thought of Jack having to spend the rest of his days in a semi doing his shopping in Tesco’s. The opposite goes for Howard and Jamie. Being presented at first as rather inconsequential human beings Harrison beautifully switches to those qualities that redeem them. A fresh start appears possible for both Howard and Jamie.
I liked At Hawthorn Time for two reasons: the beautiful descriptions of plants and animals and the precious way in which Harrison paints her characters in her compact novel, a mere 200 pages. Harrison uses images we are familiar with, the retired couple escaping to the country, the young lout tinkering with his rather vulgar car and the earth-bound traveller. Harrison only needs subtle specifics to make them come alive. Those specifics not always being positive the novel never turns melodramatic on us. At Hawthorn Time is one of those novels you have to read slowly in order to take in all those beautiful descriptions. It is a beautiful raw-edged picture.


About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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2 Responses to Melissa Harrison || At Hawthorn Time

  1. I like the sound of this one too.

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