Monday, July 24, 2017

The Brensham Trilogy

I have an amusing little trilogy to share with you all today. The Brensham Trilogy by John Moore was written in the 1940s, partly as a reaction to the sweeping social changes that occurred in Great Britain after World War II. I added this series to my booklist after I saw it mentioned, in Austerity Britain by David Kynaston (reviewed here).  Kynaston says that the Barchester series by Angela Thirkell, and also The Brensham Trilogy, were written specifically to reflect on and criticize the changes that occurred in Great Britain in the period immediately following World War II. I read Austerity Britain nearly four years ago, so it seems it takes me four years from the time I add a book to my list until the time I actually get around to reading it.

I found my copy at UVA's Alderman Library

I was expecting a trilogy of novels, but these books are a memoir that reads like a novel. In the first book, Portrait of Elmbury, Elmbury is a fictional name for Tewkesbury, the town where John Moore grew up. This book is the most closely connected with Moore's life, describing his childhood in a beautiful Tudor house in "Elmbury," his school days, and later work in his uncle's auction house. Brensham Village and The Blue Field, are both about the village of Brensham, located about four miles from Elmbury. In these two books, Moore is more of an observer than a character, focusing on the characters of these villages and the complex social interactions and relationships that make up village life, and the unfortunate changes that come with modernity. A mysterious "syndicate" is menacing the village, slowly buying up property for "development." A man faces serious legal trouble for planting his field with linseed (the "blue field") rather than the foodstuffs the agricultural board has ordered him to plant. The villages and town are also overrun with weekend warriors and their noise, litter, and road-hogging buses. (Sounds a bit like Charlottesville.)

Unlike Angela Thirkell's books, these are not a ham-handed, snobbish longing for the good old days of noblesse oblige. The Brensham Trilogy is a sensitive examination of society and how even sometimes positive social change comes with a price. The characters are beautifully drawn and their stories are told with humor and love. 


  1. These books sound so good that I've added them to my "to-read" list. I'm currently reading "Priestdaddy" -- which sounds somewhat unsavory and I haven't decided if I like it.

  2. Interesting. I've got a stack of books I need to drop by your house that I think you might enjoy. I'm currently reading some novel by a new writer that I grabbed from the "New" shelves at the library that I'm pretty sure I'm not going to finish as it's not really that good.

  3. Okay, just marked this one down. Thank you. They sound perfect.

  4. Four years, eh? I guess I'm doomed. Still, having too many books on my to-read list is a better problem to have than not having enough books to read.

    This looks like a good one to add to the list!

    1. I seriously worry that I'll die before finishing my book list! :)