June 2015, RRP $29.99
No matter where you live, most people get a sense of the year passing and changing, even in the deprivation of the city—a bit. And more and more and more the more green you have around you. And for many, including me, the pull of the green becomes stronger the longer it has been since you surrounded yourself with it.
At Hawthorn Time is a braided tale of the lives of four people. Kitty and Howard have made their tree-change, from the smoke of London to idyllic village life. Though perhaps that’s the idyll that we all may still have in our minds about country living. Kitty and Howard soon discover that moving to the country is not a panacea for all of life’s ills.
Howard, keeping himself busy with his radio collection, is a man who feels he owes his wife the move. Retirement and an empty nest have left him without a reason to object any longer. Kitty, always longing to live in the countryside, discovers the romantic picture she had in her mind is not quite the reality.
Jamie, who has lived in the village his entire life, is a teenager on the brink of adulthood. His childhood spent playing and working on a friend’s farm imbued the land into his blood and bones. The loss of his friend and the impending development of the farm is a sickening blow that he buries deep beneath fixing up his car, looking after his grandfather and working. A routine symbolic of adulthood, as though the working of the land and being in touch with the natural world is passé and childish.
Finally there is Jack. A lone wanderer rambling through the country—a freedom now being chipped away by private property, no trespass signs and suspicious minds. Through Jack’s eyes and notes we see the land and the seasons existing, as they always have, beside developments and roads and fences. He is a jack-in-the-green. Living and sleeping wherever he finds a place to lay his head, noting the changes around him and planting seeds as he goes.
The prologue puts the reader on edge throughout the book. As we follow the day to day lives of these characters we wait for the tragedy lurking down the road wondering how it all came down to this.
At Hawthorn Time puts into focus the loss of the good old days, or at least the perception of the good old days, which may never have truly existed in the first place.
The dogged persistence and constant change in the natural world provides stark relief to the nostalgic desire for a static idyll that is constantly shattered by human (so-called) progress and the steady tramp of ordinary life.