Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: An English Year

I know that I added An English Year by Nan Fairbrother to my book list after seeing it mentioned in a biography of Bruce Chatwin, but now I can't remember what connection there was between the two.  Bruce Chatwin was a travel writer and Nan Fairbrother was a landscape architect, who mostly wrote about land use in Great Britain.

An English Year is the story of a year living in a sixteenth century farmhouse in the country with the author's two small sons, while her husband is away fighting in World War II.  It reads like a blog, with random thoughts about everything from picnics to whooping cough to reading Donne in the summertime, to her children's propensity to use dead mice as dolls for their dolls' house. (That last gave me pause, and I'm pretty laid back about germs.)

There are tantalizing hints about her house:  we know that it has a moat and that there is no front step, so the children can ride freely in and out the front door on their tricycles.  It has a thatched roof, and was vacant for so long that tree roots are an integral part of the kitchen floor.  At one point, they're marooned in the house on an island during a severe spring flood.  It is rumored to be haunted and the villagers won't visit.  Fairbrother doesn't mention any ghosts, but the house itself is very much a living presence.

This is a thoughtful book for thoughtful people.  It also seems to be out of print.  I did find a cheap copy on Amazon, but it's basically a sheaf of bound photocopies.  Here's a vintage copy that someone is selling on Etsy.


  1. I'd like to read that -- I've had a WWII/England fascination lately. has many used copies at reasonable prices.

  2. That sounds like a good read. Any chance you want to lend out your copy?

  3. Sure Becky, I can lend you mine. :)