That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda France

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That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda France

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The countryside as we hope it really isn't: the summer that changed the lives of everyone living at Hill Farm.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099555131

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If you were to pass Hill Farm you would think it the perfect country idyll with lambs in the fields, children playing and the farmhouse nestled in the folds of the hills. The truth though is different. Farmer Hayes loves the land, but he's no farmer. His wife is neglected and it's not that long since Isabel miscarried her fourth child. She loves her children but she's not a particularly good housewife - or wife. She and Hayes were rather bounced into marriage by her aging and doting parents. Now she's trapped in a house with death-watch beetle and a husband who is struggling to keep the farm going.

Mikey, the farm hand, reached the peak of his achievement long ago with his main talent now being his ability to take regular unauthorised breaks. Oh, yes - and he dabbles in a little pyromania. The Paynes live in a cottage on the farm, wedded to the idea that they live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and impervious to the realities of the farming community. The Smith sisters have not spoken to each other for forty years and the postmistress runs an information system that would shame the KGB.

It could have gone on like this for years but then Jack arrived. Australian, good looking, charismatic, caring and good at his job - he was exactly what Isabel didn't need. And everyone would feel the repercussions.

This is modern-day (well, the seventies, at a guess) Sussex, but think Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons and mix in just a little bit of The Archers. It's witty, producing wry smiles rather than laughter and if you live in the countryside you'll recognise a lot of the situations and the preoccupations even forty years on. Some of the characters are stereotypes - Mr Payne, for instance, who almost does comedy set pieces but doesn't really advance the plot all that much - but that is a relatively minor quibble in an otherwise good story.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another look at village life we can't recommend Burley Cross Postbox Theft by Nicola Barker highly enough. Another must-read is In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill.

Buy That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda France at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda France at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda France at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda France at Amazon.com.


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