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A Month in the Country


This is Carr's fifth novel and is widely regarded as his masterpiece. The novel won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1980 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the same year.

The story is set around the church in the village of Oxgodby in 1920. Osgodby or Osgoodby is an area near Thirsk in Yorkshire. The church is based on St Faith's church at Newton, sometimes called Newton in the Willows, near Kettering. This is the abandoned church that Carr tried to save from demolition, now used as Newton Field Centre (although it may now have closed). The Kettering Evening Telegraph reported on 28th November 1994, that JLC had left the sum of £1,000 in his will for a stained glass window to St Faith to be placed in south isle of Kettering Parish Church. I looked around the church recently, but couldn't find it.

Carr wrote on a price list that he sent to a friend in about 1987 that the book had been bought for a film by Dennis Potter. Potter did not write a film script for the novel, it was written by Simon Gray.

The novel was made into a film in 1987 starring Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh and Natasha Richardson. The part of Kathy Ellerbeck in the film was played by Vicki Arundale, which seems to have been her only acting performance. The film was shot at St. Mary's Church, in Radnage in Buckinghamshire. According to a letter from Carr to his sister, the production cost £1.3 million, which was recovered.

The novel was initially dedicated to Carr's sister, Kathie (Kathleen). In the fine, limited edition, published in 1991 by the Cornucopia Press, he added a dedication to Sally, his wife, who had died in 1981. He retained these dedications in the Quince Tree Press edition, published in 1991.

One of several manuscripts, according to Carr, is in the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York.

The Folio Society edition was planned during Carr's life time but wasn't published until 1999, so is not included here.




●  First edition, first impression


Publisher: The Harvester Press

Date of publication: 1980

ISBN: 0-85527-328-3

Size: 204 x 130 mm.

Pages: 8 pp prelims, 111 pp

Dust jacket design: Craig Dodd (c 1940-2010)

Binding: Red cloth; title, author and publisher's logo on spine in silver

Price: £6.50, not printed on jacket, added as a printed Harvester Press sticker (12.5 x 19.0 mm) or written by hand on a blank label

Printed by: Redwood Burn Limited, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Reprinted: 1981, 1982

Dedication: For Kathie

Front fold-in: This haunting novel, set in the summer of 1920, is the story of a war survivor who spends a month in the country in the quiet of the English countryside, living in a church in the North of England, uncovering and restoring a historical wall painting. In a tent in the next filed lives Moon, also a war survivor, whose days are spent in search of a lost grave. Both are shadows of the men they once were. The hero's developing relationship with Moon lays the foundations for the deep sense of communication he is to experience with the country landscape, and with the landscape of the past.

Image of book

Front panel and (unfaded) spine of the book dust jacket



The essence of the past is encapsulated within the interior of the church, and, uncovering the sacred wall painting, he rediscovers the rhythms of life, past and present which the war had obliterated. J.L. Carr creates a special world of illusive experience that exerts a haunting atmosphere of nostalgia.


Rear fold-in: J.L. Carr is a publisher of standard poets, idiosyncratic maps, and unlikely dictionaries. He is also author children's books and novels, including The Harpole Report (Secker and Warburg, 1972), How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup (London Magazine Editions, 1975), and The Green Children of the Woods (Macmillan, 1976).


Notes: This is the fifth publisher that Carr had used. Carr wrote in an article in The Author in 1983:

A Month in the Country was bought by a chap from Harvester who telephoned asking if I had a novel for sale. Quite astonishing! Never neglect to answer phone calls. Probably his was the only firm who would have taken it on because creative atrophy had set in badly and I ran out of steam at 35,000 words".

The Harvester Press was established in Brighton by Prof. John Spiers (b 1941) in about 1968, although a publisher in the same town had used the same name in 1918, according to JISC. The last publication of the Press is dated 1985. The company was sold to Simon & Schuster in 1988.

The church pictured on the jacket is St Materiana's Church in Tintagel, Cornwall.


Inscriptions

This is Carr's inscription in a copy of the novel that he gave to his sister Kathie, to whom the book is dedicated:

One can't write a novel 'out of thin air'. Anyway, I can't. I had to furnish a story with the past. And this is true of A Month in the Country. One can't put a finger exactly on who this is or where that was because the people are like other people and the places are here and there. The narrator isn't me; Kathy Ellerbeck isn't you, the church is in Northamptonshire, the monument to Laetitia is in another church, the vicarage is in Essex . . . and so on. But the feeling is true ‐ and it is an affectionate look back at a lost time, even perhaps a time that never was. Lloyd


Carr wrote this in a copy sent to a friend in Ireland:

This novel was an attempt to recall my childhood in the North Riding in the early 1920s. We lived like the Ellerbecks. To this was tacked on a period in the 1960s when, with Sally and Bob, I looked after an abandoned medieval church, like Oxgodby’s, alone in the fields, And the W.W.1 came from weekly conversations with Edmund Kirby, aged 98, who barely survived the Somme.


In a letter to his sister, Kathie, JLC wrote:

They are going to publish a school edition with notes (so at last I shall discover what it's all about).

No school edition is known.




●  Second edition, 1st impression


Publisher: Penguin Books in association with The Harvester Press

Date of publication: 1980

ISBN: 0 1400 5862 1

Size: 197 x 129 mm

Pages: 8 pp prelims, 111 pp

Binding: wrappers

Cover design: a detail from an engraving with the Mansell Collection

Price: UK £2.25

Printed by: Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk

Reprinted: 1980

Dedication: For Kathie


Notes: Carr noted on his order form for the Quince Tree Press edition that the Penguin edition had sold 75,000 copies (see below).

If the corner flash to advertise the Booker Prize nomination was changed in late 1980 or early 1981 to show that the novel had won the Guardian Fiction Prize, then this may be relatively uncommon.


Image of book

Front cover


Carr wrote inside a copy of this book:

This novel is the final spasm of a withering creative energy and I had to fall back on long slabs of memory. The Ellerbeck household is the 1920 Carr household, even the choosing of the chapel organ, the dying girl, the Sunday school treat are true. And, when I was 18, my father sent me to 'Ferry' to preach. So, in some ways, it is an exercise in nostalgia, memories of days that probably never were.




●  Second edition, 2nd impression


Publisher: Penguin Books in association with The Harvester Press

Date of publication: 1980 or 1981

ISBN: 0 1400 5862 1

Size: 197 x 129 mm

Pages: 8 pp prelims, 111 pp

Binding: wrappers

Cover design: A detail from an engraving with the Mansell Collection

Price: UK £2.50

Printed by: Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk

Reprinted: 1981, 1982, 1983 (twice)

Dedication: For Kathie


Notes: In this variant the corner flash has been changed to advertise the Guardian Fiction Prize, 1980. It is presumed that this was done in 1980 or 1981, so all later reprints were the same as this impression.

Image of book

Front cover




●  Second edition, 3rd impression


Publisher: Penguin Books in association with The Harvester Press

Date of publication: 1985 or 86

ISBN: 0 1400 5862 1

Size: 197 x 129 mm

Pages: 8 pp prelims, 111pp

Binding: wrappers

Cover illustration: Brain Sanders

Price: UK £2.95, Australia $8.95, N.Z. 12.99, Can $6.95

Printed by: Richard Clay Ltd, Bungay, Suffolk

Reprinted: 198, 1983 (twice), 1985 (twice), 1986

Dedication: For Kathie


Notes: Carr wrote in November 1987 inside a copy of this book:

The idea was to recapture the sort of life my family lived in the North Riding near Thirsk in 1919, 1920. My father was the night-stationmaster during the war and the family life revolved around maintaining the little Wesleyan Chapel.

Image of book

Front cover




●  Second edition, 4th impression


Publisher: Penguin Books in association with The Harvester Press

Date of publication: 1987

ISBN: 0 14-010559-X

Size: 197 x 130 mm

Pages: 8 pp prelims, 111pp

Binding: wrappers

Cover design: a photograph from the film showing Colin Firth and Kenneth Brannagh

Price: UK £2.95, Australia $8.95, N.Z. 12.99, Can $6.95

Printed by: Richard Clay, Bungay, Suffolk

Reprinted: ?

Dedication: For Kathie

Notes: This impression was issued to coincide with the release of a film of the novel starring Colin Firth as Birkin and Kenneth Brannagh as Moon, who are pictured on the cover, right and left, respectively.

Carr wrote inside a copy of this book:

It's about an age which has gone - the end of the Middle Ages in fact.


Image of book

Front cover




●  Braille edition


Publisher: Royal National Institute for the Blind Press

Date of publication: 1982

ISBN: none

Size: not seen

Pages: not seen

Binding: not seen

Cover illustration: not seen

Price: not known

Printed by: not seen


Notes:

Image of book

Front cover




●  Isis Large Print edition


Publisher: Clio Press, 55 St Thomas' Street, Oxford OX1 1JG by arrangement with A.P. Watt and St Martin's Press Inc

Date of publication: [1st November] 1988

ISBN: 1-85089-253-9

Size: 222 x 143 mm

Pages: 12 pp prelims, 139 pp, 4 pp ads, 8 pp blank

Dust jacket: not seen, probably none

Binding: glossy printed boards

Price: unknown

Printed by: Hartnolls Limited, Bodmin, Cornwall

Cover design: CGS Studios, Cheltenham


Notes: Cover picture: Colin Firth and Kenneth Brannagh in the film of A Month in the Country.

This is an uncommon edition, especially without library stamps, as many were bought by libraries to be lent to people with poor vision.

Image of book

Front cover




●  Fourth, limited, edition


Publisher: The Cornucopia Press, 10 Curzon Street, London W1Y 7FJ

Date of publication: 1990

ISBN: none

Size: 263 x 190 mm

Pagination: pink front free end paper; half title; title page with ZP watermark lower right, with copyright verso; dedications; quotations; Introduction by Ronald Blythe, pp ix-xii; Foreword by J.L. Carr; title; pp 1-106; limitation page with number of copy, signed by J.L. Carr and Ronald Blythe; 4 blank pages; pink rear free end paper

Dust jacket: clear acetate

Designer and printer: Alan Bultitude

Printed by: The September Press, Irchester, Wellingborough NN9 7AB

Binding: By The Fine Bindery in green cloth with small pink label (48 x 85 mm) on front cover with author, title and publisher in black; pink label on spine (13 x 78 mm) with author and title in black; plain green rear boards

Paper: Zerkal mould-made

Fount: 'Monotype' Ehrhardt

Price: £40 (according to letter from JLC to his sister, Kathie)

Introduction: Ronald Blythe

Copies printed: 300 numbered copies signed by J.L. Carr and Ronald Blythe

Dedication: For Kathie and for Sally . . . fare well


Image of book

Front cover




Notes: Carr changed the dedication to this edition; he added the name of his wife, who had died in 1981. Carr revised the text.

As far as I can tell, this is the only book published by the Cornucopia Press and one of few titles printed by the September Press. The address of the Cornucopia Press is the same as the bookshop, Heywood Hill. An obituary in July 2020 for Raymond John Carter, a former Labour MP and bibliophile, states that he was responsible for publishing this book. If you have any more information, please let me know.



●  Fifth edition


Publisher: Quince Tree Press, 27 Mill Dale Road, Kettering

Date of publication: 15th February 1991

ISBN: 0-900847-92-1

Size: 198 x 130 mm

Pages: 10 pp prelims, 106 pp

Binding: card wrappers

Cover design: from a wood engraving by Monica Poole

Price: UK £4.95

Printed by: Stanley L. Hunt (Printers) Ltd, Rushden, Northamptonshire

Copies printed: 3,000 copies

Dedication: For Kathie and for Sally . . . fare well


Notes: This is the second book published by the Quince Tree Press.

This novel is listed in an ISBN search as published by Gardners Books in October 1988. I wonder where that came from? Gardners are a book wholesaler. It explains perhaps why this book is sometimes advertised thus on second-hand book sites by book sellers who do not actually look at the book they are selling.


Image of book

Front cover


Image of book

Carr's order form for his edition of the title (click to enlarge).




●  First United States edition


Publisher: St. Martin's Press, New York

Date of publication: July 1983

ISBN: 0-312-54680-7

Size: 213 x 144 mm

Pages: 8 pp prelims, 111 pp

Jacket design: no credit

Binding: Red cloth; title, author and publisher's logo along spine in silver

Price: not printed on jacket

Printed by: not stated, but probably by Richard Clay, Bungay, Suffolk

Dedication: For Kathie

Front fold-in: This haunting novel, set in the summer of 1920, is the story of a war survivor who spends a month in the country in the quiet of the English countryside, living in a church in the North of England, uncovering and restoring a historical wall painting.

Image of book

Front panel and spine of dust jacket


In a tent in the next field lives Moon, also a war survivor, whose days are spent in search of a lost grave. Both are shadows of the men they once were. The hero's developing relationship with Moon lays the foundations for the deep sense of communication he is to experience with the country landscape, and with the landscape of the past. The essence of the past is encapsulated within the interior of the church and, uncovering the sacred wall painting, he rediscovers the rhythms of life, past and present which the war had obliterated.

Rear fold-in: Winner of Britain's Guardian prize for fiction, A Month in the Country is a quiet masterpiece. Between the covers of this little book lies some of the finest and most moving writing of the decade.

Notes: The book was reviewed in The New Yorker by Molly Panter-Downes in the issue of May 7, 1984 (pages 152-158). A quote was used on the front cover of the paperback edition, below.




●  Second United States edition


Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers

Date of publication: 1984 according to book, but publication details elsewhere give the date as December 28th 1985

ISBN: 0-89733-124-9

Size: 201 x 138 mm

Pages: 10 pp prelims, 111 pp, 6 pp blank

Binding: wrappers

Cover design: same as St. Martin's Press edition

Price: $5.95

Printed by: none stated

Dedication: For Kathie


Notes: Two similar designs for the cover have been seen. The image of the lower one is a stock photo as it hasn't been seen.


Image of book

Front cover


Image of book

Front cover of variant edition



More information about later impressions and foreign language editions can be found on the Wikipedia page for this novel (which I update).