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Reviews of books written or published by J.L. Carr, or of films of his novels

Not many printed reviews of Carr's novels have been found, especially early ones, but I have listed the ones that I have or have found through internet searches. The Spectator and the TLS have archives, but you need to be a subscriber to gain access. Please let me know if you know of any others.


Reviews of A Day in Summer


●  Anonymous (1964). Fiction. The Observer, 2nd February 1964.

A realistic and intelligent sub-thriller about a stranger who stalks an English village with a gun, seeking revenge on the perpetrator of a road death.


●  Frances Isles (1964). Criminal Records. The Guardian, 21st February 1964.

A most impressive debut by a new novelist. Mr Peplow sets out, revolver in pocket, to kill the man who had killed his son in a car accident. But the book is scarcely about that, concentrating as it does on the characters and situations in the town of Minden for which Mr Peplow is bound. Less of a thriller, then, than a novel; but a notable piece of work on either count.


The reviews below were cited by JLC in a letter to a Librarian in Huron, South Dakota. A copy of the letter is in Kettering Library.


●  Daily Herald, London: ‘...an extremely good first novel...Mr Carr should gain gradually in celebrity...'

●  The Spectator, London: ‘...it depends not only on story and suspense but on the delightful, ironic and, in the best sense, professional way he writes.'

●  Glasgow Citizen: 'It is an explosive situation which the author exploits with shrewd insight and perception... A major achievement for a first novel.''

●   The Guardian, London: 'A most impressive debut by a new novelist...a notable piece of work...'

●   Tribune: '...most impressive and, at times, deeply moving...'

Reviews of A Season in Sinji.


●  William Trevor (1968). Giving us the works. The Guardian, 22nd March 1968.

...A Season in Sinji, about petty goings-on at an RAF station in wartime West Africa, is undemanding and agreeably to the point....Being intensely English, the novel is as much about playing cricket as it is about the fact that Turton pretends not to recognise his erstwhile rivals while at the same time determining to make them suffer for their presumptions in the past. Mr Carr very neatly blends the kind of machinations that occur on the cricket field with those that come to dominate Turton's mind. But beneath the pettiness, as beneath the formality of cricket, there is a real blasting passion, and when the novel extends itself to receive the final notes of tragedy it does so with a cunning that recalls the game at its best.


●  Martin Seymour-Smith (1968). Season under. The Spectator, 3rd May 1968, not seen.


Reviews of Steeple Sinderby.


●  Peter Tinniswood (1975). Fiction. The Times, 10th April 1975, issue 59,366, page 14.

The satire in the book is obvious. Sometimes it is a little heavy-handed. The parodies of newspaper reports, for instance, go on too long and become too wild. However Mr Carr makes some amusingly vicious swipes at the arrogant conceits of professional soccer and among the jumble of literary, political and television parodies produces some fine elements of robust comedy.


●  David Lacey (1975). Guardian sports book reviews. Carr's unparalleled fictional feat. The Guardian, 14th May 1975.

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup is told by J.L.Carr through the eyes of the club secretary, a former theological student who ekes out a living writing verses for greeting cards. If the title echoes de Selincourt (Mr Armstrong, as always, tossed with great skill and showed no surprise at winning) the humour is more barbed, the action more hectic than at tranquil Tillingford.



Reviews of Dictionary of extraordinary English cricketers.


●  Frank Keating (1977). Bowled over. The Guardian, 13th August 1964. .

Not that I've ever reviewed a dictionary before. But when my turn finally came, I never thought that it would have me creased from A-Z. Carr's Dictionary of Extraordinary English Cricketers has just been published and I reckon all of you ought to know....Hurrah, hurrah - and hurry, hurry while stocks last.


●  Benny Green (1977). Loony shades. The Spectator, 17th September 1977, see here.

●  Richard Streeton (1977). More variety to enrich the cricketer's shelf. The Times, issue 60091, 25th August, 1977, p 10. A review of Dictionary of extra-ordinary Cricketers with reviews of other titles.

Finally the warmest of welcomes to a delightful twenty pence book....



Review of Joan Hassall's Picture Book..


●  Anonymous (1980). Picture book. The Guardian, 8th April 1980.

The reproduction is excellent.



Review of A Month in the Country.


●  Normal Shrapnel (1980). Only partly telling. The Guardian, 17th April 1980.

... J.L. Carr has written as short and as telling a novel as any I have read this year or, I suspect, am likely to.


●  Mollie Panter-Downes (1984). Word from a Far Country. The New Yorker, 7 May 1984, pp 152-158. A review of A Month in the Country, published in the USA by Academy Chicago Publishers in 1984.

(The review came in a copy of the first American edition and was placed there by its former owner, the playwright Tad Mosel. Thanks, Tad. This is a wonderful habit: to cut out a review of the book when it is published and place it inside the front cover.)

Mollie Panter-Downes concludes her long review: Mr Carr's blessedly small tale of lost love is also a small hymn about art and the compensating joys of the artist, both giving and receiving. It stays with us, too, and is oddly haunting.


●  Hilary Mantel (1987). Pastoral interlude. A Month in the Country (PG, Warner West End) The Spectator, 5th December 1987, p 59. A review of the film of A Month in the Country directed by Pat O'Connor.

What the film does convey is that melancholy sense of lives that touch at a crucial moment and will never do so again; it does this with humour and dignity and without overstatement.



Review of The Revolt of 1381.


●  Alex Hamilton (1981). On the Rack. The Guardian, 17th June 1981.

In his inimitable style, baroque on cherrystone, J.L. Carr has compiled and published one of his succinct guidelets...



Review of Carr's Illustrated Dictionary of extra-ordinary Cricketers

●  Rupert Morris (1983). Clean bowled and blasted from the crease. The Times, issue 61566, 11th June 1983, p 5. .

Mr Carr's book is clearly not intended for the serious student of the game; it is, however, an invaluable aid to after-dinner speakers on cricket.



Review of The Battle of Pollocks Crossing.


●  Hugh Barnes (1985). The end of Gnostic Odyssey. The Times, issue 62151, 30th May 1985, p 11.

A summary of the story more than a literary review.


●  Margaret Walters (1985). Russian playground. The Observer, 2nd June 1985.

J.L. Carr's latest novel is as unexpected, as quietly arresting, as A Month in the Country. (The novel) is a dry, funny, whimsicl yet touching story of an Englishman's love-hate affair with America...Carr shifts with his usual uncanny ease from near farce into the elegaic and even tragic modes.


●  Normal Shrapnel (1985). Old battlefields. The Guardian, 6th June 1985.

J.L. Carr's The Battle of Pollocks Crossing confirms this good writer as possessing a novelist's most essential gift, his own inalienable voice. Wayward, ambiguous, eccentric - it can be all these, even as barmy as life itself.


●  E.J. Craddock (1985). Publishing. National adornment. The Times, issue 62286, 4th November 1985, p 8.

An article on Carr whose novel The Battle of Pollocks Crossing had failed to win the Booker Prize, and about Gidner's Brief Lives, which Carr issued as a companion volume.

The case of Mr Carr is worth investigating in some detail. On the back flap of the jacket it states that he was born and brought up in North Riding villages. I like the plural, which makes him sound like a creation of Laurence Sterne of Coxwold, North Yorkshire, which, come to think of it and the different tone of each of his six novels, he is: a child of Sterne.



A review of What Hetty Did.


●  Korn, Eric. (1988). Youth and opportunity. The Times Literary Supplement, March 23-31, 1988, p 337.

J.L. Carr chooses to present himself as slightly beleagured, breathing deficance to big city folk, big publishing folk, albeit in the most civil manner imaginable. He stays in improbable Kettering, publishing very large numbers of very small, very cheap, very entertaining books on improbable subjects like Cowboys or Clare or Cricket, and every so often a deft and wilful novel which defies categories. Sometimes there is improbable melodrama; at others, improbably little happens, and that little is described with meticulous delicacy. He may write about medieval wallpainting, about football and cricket, or about the inadequacies of educational bureaucrats, a subject on which somewhat unorthodox opinions may emerge with all the freshness of new conviction: slightly blimpish attitudes, however, are expressed with seraphic ease.


●  King, Francis (1988). What Hetty Did. The Spectator, 20th February 1988.


Review of Carr's small books.


●  Tim Heald The Observer, 18th February 1990, Masterworks in miniature. An article about Carr's small books.

J.L. Carr quotes more prodigously than any man I've met and seems to have most of English verse by heart. His knowledge is not only compendious but gloriously serendipitous.



A review of Churches in Retirement.


●  Tennant, Emma (1991) Churches in Retirement. The Spectator, 2nd February 1991.


A review of Harpole & Foxberrow


●  Taylor, D.J. (1992). Extraordinary English publisher. The Spectator, 15th August 1992, p 30.

Fortunately Mr Carr's characters are not quite so transient. One of their creator's most engaging tendencies is his habit of allowing people, dialogue and conceits to stray from novel to novel; the effect is to produce a continuous fictional palimpsest in which choronology and plausibility are cheerfully sacrificed to theme and situation.

Mr Taylor did this too: he used the name of one of Carr's characters in his novel Ask Alice.