‘Melissa Harrison’s All Among the Barley is an incredible evocation of one particular corner of rural England in the 1930s. Powerful and subtle and richly detailed, this is a book that inhabits its territory, knows its people, and follows its own haunting logic. Some of the great themes of English life are tackled here – class division, the patriarchy, folklore and psychosis, creeping fascism – but rather than being simply ticked off they are instead woven into the narrative with great subtlety and beauty. I’ve been following Melissa Harrison’s work with interest for some time now, and with this novel she’s done what I’ve long suspected she would: she’s written a masterpiece.’ – Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13
The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember. But in the fields and villages around her beloved Wych Farm the Great War still casts a shadow over a community impoverished by economic depression, and threatened by change. Change, too, is coming to Edie, who at fourteen must soon face the unsettling pressures of adulthood. Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to document fading rural traditions and beliefs, urging all who will listen to resist progress and return to the old ways – but some wonder whether there might be more to the glamorous older woman than meets the eye. As harvest approaches and the future of Wych Farm itself grows uncertain, Edie must somehow find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.
Listen to a discussion of All Among the Barley on ABC’s The Bookshelf here.
“A beautiful evocation of the rhythms and pressures of rural life in the interwar years, as well as a powerful and lyrical coming-of-age story from a writer who is fast establishing herself as one of the best contemporary exponents of the pastoral novel” – The Guardian
‘A work of rare magic’ – Helen Macdonald, author of H Is For Hawk
“Harrison is adept at making several realities exist uncannily alongside one another. She conjures up nature, with its timeless rhythms and beauty, and invades it with the political… accomplished” – The Spectator
“An in-the-bone connection with the natural world that contrives to be both sparklingly precise and wildly exhilarating… as an evocation of place and a lost way of life, Harrison’s novel is astonishing, as potent and irresistible as a magic spell… a kind of time travel” – Clare Clark in The Guardian
‘What a brilliant and timely novel All Among The Barley is. Deeply evocative of a historical moment – rural England between the wars, before mechanisation – it is also, unmistakably, about questions that press hard on us now, above all the dangers of nationalism, and how easily a love of place can be corrupted into something dark and exclusionary. This is an important book by a writer of great gifts’ – Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways
‘Loving in its detail, yet also clear-sighted enough to see the pitfalls of revering the land in ways that can lead down dangerous paths, towards blood and soil ideology’ – Tracey Thorn
“Exquisitely written, elegantly plotted” – The New Statesman
‘In All Among the Barley, Melissa Harrison has created a central character to rival Cassandra in I Capture the Castle. A remarkable and haunting book’ – Evie Wyld, author of All The Birds, Singing
“Harrison, a contributor to The Times’s Nature Notebook, is that traditional being, a nature writer with a knowledge and eye for detail that recalls Thomas Hardy and John McGahern. And that makes this novel impossible to forget” – the Weekend FT
“Both beautifully evocative and a gripping read – a rare combination … Throughout, it is suffused with the gorgeous language and keen insight into the natural world that has marked Harrison’s work since Clay” – Erica Wagner, Harper’s Bazaar
‘A beautiful, heartbreaking novel of great power. Melissa Harrison has built a world for us, and peopled it, making it solid and real, and all the time making one aware of an awesome fragility – of human minds and bodies, of farmers under politicians and under nature, of ideas that might transform lives or might destroy them. I’ve been privileged to inhabit this world’ – Tim Pears, author of The Horseman
“Looking through Melissa Harrison’s eyes provides a new way of seeing… Such original and intelligent writing is rare” – Literary Review
‘Melissa Harrison is a dazzlingly gifted writer… This is right up with the very best classic novels of inter-War country life’ – Amanda Craig, author of The Lie of the Land
“Subtle echoes of the present enrich this vivid evocation of a seemingly lost England” – The Sunday Times
All Among the Barley was published by Bloomsbury on August 23, 2018, with maps by Neil Gower. The paperback came out in March 2019. Four limited-edition screenprints by the artist Lewis Heriz are available to order here. For UK press enquiries please contact Ros Ellis at Bloomsbury.