Author(s): Melissa Harrison
Four-thirty on a May morning: the black fading to blue, dawn gathering somewhere below the treeline in the east. A long, straight road runs between sleeping fields to the little village of Lodeshill, and on it two cars lie wrecked and ravished, violence gathered about them in the silent air. One wheel, upturned, still spins.
Howard and Kitty have recently moved to Lodeshill after a life spent in London; now, their marriage is wordlessly falling apart. Custom car enthusiast Jamie has lived in the village for all of his nineteen years and dreams of leaving it behind, while Jack, a vagrant farm-worker and mystic in flight from a bail hostel, arrives in the village on foot one spring morning, bringing change. All four of them are struggling to find a life in the modern countryside; all are trying to find ways to belong.
Building to an extraordinary climax over the course of one spring month, At Hawthorn Time is both a clear-eyed picture of rural Britain, and a heartbreaking exploration of love, land and loss.
Longlisted for the Baileys Prize 2016
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2015
.A magical, hypnotically strange book of love and dreams, tragedy and myth, At Hawthorn Time sent shivers down my spine. Soaked deep in hedgerows and fields, it is a profoundly unsentimental yet deeply compassionate meditation on searching for myth and meaning, on our need to belong, and the place of history in the history of place. Harrison is writing us a new kind of modern pastoral: peopled, raw, messy, and shining.' --Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
'At Hawthorn Time is intensely moving, a book overshadowed by disaster but still careful, precise, and hypnotically beautiful.' --Evie Wyld
'A heartbreaking exploration of love and loss.' -- Viv Groskop Red
'Her perceptions encompass both the beauty and the indifference of nature to us and the way human beings are doing their best to destroy nature ... Harrison plays with our expectations very skilfully. Every time someone gets into their car or goes near a road, you wonder whether this will be the moment; the rich vitality of the season underscores the poignancy of what is to come ... Harrison has mastered a kind of writing which links people to place in a manner that amplifies both ... An absorbing work of fiction - one that promises bigger things in the future from this notably gifted author.' -- Amanda Craig Literary Review
'The novel is as much a hymn to the ancient life-force of nature as it is a reminder of the underlying fragility of our busy modern world ... Harrison writes with impressive detail about our hedgerows, fields, and woodlands ... Carefully crafted writing.' -- Holly Williams Independent on Sunday
'Acute, effortless ... So much unforced life is here that Harrison is readily comparable with Elizabeth Taylor and Penelope Lively; but she has a distinction all her own - and her growing audience must hope to live long enough to read everything she writes.' --Spectator
'Harrison's love of the natural world and its traditions vibrates poetically through every page, but this is an up-to-date reading of the national psyche ... Harrison's imagination is wonderfully strange, her writing beautifully assured and controlled. At Hawthorn Time is social satire, but also a political protest against the intensive and increasing privatisation of the countryside, and a love letter to the power of nature - which persists whether we understand it or not.' -- Kate Saunders The Times
'If Robert Macfarlane and Helen Macdonald were to co-author a book with John Burnside and Adam Foulds, it might end up something like At Hawthorn Time ... In this elegant and gently melancholy tale what Harrison's naturalism highlights most is that as Jamie, Howard and Jack variously struggle to pull up or put down roots, their hopes and disappointments are seasonal. Like the road with which she starts, their lives, live everything in nature, however vibrant, will be overlaid by others.' -- Michael Prodger Financial Times
'Nature blossoms from every page of this fine second novel, a slow and marvellous unfurling ... An unsentimental, celebratory look at land and the love it inspires.' --Psychologies
'A gripping story which lingers in the mind.' Independent, 'This Year's Best Nature Writing'
Melissa Harrison's debut novel Clay won the Portsmouth First Fiction Award, was selected for Amazon's 'Rising Stars' programme and chosen by Ali Smith as a Book of the Year for 2013. A freelance writer, occasional photographer and columnist for The Times, the Weekend FT and the Guardian, she lives in south London. @M_Z_Harrison