There is something in the air around the Bloomsbury London Offices. Bedford Square is filling with hopeful sun-seeking lunchers, awkward transitional clothing is being experimented with, and hay fever is making a comeback; it’s official – Spring has sprung! Here at Bloomsbury Reader we are wistfully dreaming about hazy afternoons in the rolling British countryside – something that can seem very far away for those of us living in cities! Thankfully all we need do is reach for a good book and we can be transported to the fresh air and crisp sunshine of an English Spring.
H. E. Bates is renowned for his depictions of rural life in Britain. Described by Graham Green as the British Chekov, his collections of short stories closely observe the joys, sorrows and absurdities of daily life – often against the backdrop of sweeping country vistas. Not only was he gifted with the ability to evoke the atmosphere of lush fields and summer rain, but it was his skill in the observation of character that really makes his work stand apart.
‘Anyone interested in the English Language must read Mr. Bates, one of its outstanding masters’ Times Literary Supplement
In The Complete Uncle Silas Stories, Bates creates a loveable rogue that cavorts through nostalgic vignettes of roof-thatching, pig-wrestling, and grave-digging. Some tales offer sly, affectionate glimpses of the narrator’s great-uncle Silas – the rural oldster of the earthy, boozy, incorrigible school. V.S. Pritchett acknowledged Bates’s gift in the short story genre, finding that he avoided farce with Silas through the use of the ‘passive, wondering audience’ of the boy and the fidelity of style to the ‘techniques of rural story-telling…Uncle Silas is in fact the scandalizing village memory at work.’
‘An honest and skillfully told love story’ New York Times
In Love for Lydia, Bates takes us into the life of a small English town. Lydia – shy, sheltered, beautiful and just nineteen – glides into Evensford one wintry day, stirring up feeling amongst the town’s young men. But it is the young Mr Richardson that she befriends. As winter turns to drowsy summer, his world becomes a wondrous place, full only of Lydia; but as his closest friends also fall under her spell, the love Richardson feels for Lydia becomes tangled with jealousy and resentment, a rift that may never be repaired.
Bloomsbury Reader published all of H. E. Bates’s short story collections as ebooks, many of them including forgotten stories that were long out of print. To find out more, go here.
If your tastes lean more towards classic crime, you’ll know that small English towns have long been a rather dangerous place to live (especially if you live in Midsomer). In The Glimpses of the Moon by Edmund Crispin, death and decapitation seem to go hand in hand. When the first victim’s head is sent floating down the river in Aller, the Devon village’s rural calm is shattered. Soon the corpses are multiplying, and the entire community is involved in the hunt for the murderer. Whilst many chase false trails, it is left to Gervase Fen, Oxford don and amateur criminologist, to uncover the sordid truth.
‘One of the undiscovered treasures of British crime fiction’ A. L. Kennedy
In The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham, the detestable Eric Crowther is murdered in the outwardly charming White Cottage, and it is up to Chief Inspector Challenor to find the murderer among the many suspects. The inspector and his son Jerry will have to look deep into everyone’s past – including the victim’s – before they can be sure who has pulled the trigger. The fact that Jerry is in love with one of the suspects, however, might complicate things. Margery Allingham is ranked among the most distinguished and beloved detective fiction writers of the ‘Golden Age’ alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh, and is J.K. Rowling’s favourite Golden Age author.
‘Margery Allingham stands out like a shining light’ Agatha Christie