Rural Hours: The Country Lives of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rosamond Lehmann (Hardback)
  • Rural Hours: The Country Lives of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rosamond Lehmann (Hardback)
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Rural Hours: The Country Lives of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Rosamond Lehmann (Hardback)

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£25.00
Hardback 384 Pages
Published: 04/04/2024
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‘A superb portrait of the complex imprint the countryside makes on the life of the mind … A treasure’ Doireann Ní Ghríofa

In Rural Hours, Harriet Baker tells the story of three very different women, each of whom moved to the countryside and was forever changed by it. We encounter them at quiet moments – pausing to look at an insect on the windowsill; jotting down a recipe; or digging for potatoes, dirt beneath their nails. Slowly, we start to see transformations unfold: Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Rosamond Lehmann emerge before us as the passionate, visionary writers we know them to be.

Following long periods of creative uncertainty and private disappointment, each of Baker's subjects is invigorated by new landscapes, and the daily trials and small pleasures of making a home; slowly, they embark on new experiments in form, in feeling and in living that would resonate throughout the rest of their lives. In the country, each woman finds her path: to convalescence and recovery; to sexual and political awakening; and, above all, to personal freedom and creative flourishing.

In graceful, fluid prose, Baker vividly recreates these overlooked episodes, revealing how ‘rural hours’ defined the lives of three pioneering writers. In the end, she shows, their example is an invitation to us all: to recognize the radical and creative potential of rural places, and find new enchantment in the rituals of each day.

‘Warm, perceptive, eloquent … Like Baker’s protagonists in their countryside boltholes I felt “socketed” by this book. I know I’ll return to it again and again’ Lauren Elkin

‘A meditative exploration of renewal, visionariness, grievous loss, and love – cool and passionate, fragile and enduring’ David Hayden

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241540510
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 590 g
Dimensions: 240 x 160 x 35 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

An outstanding piece of literary scholarship ... A biography that is far more intimate than most ... By choosing to embrace the daily routines of rural life, Baker proposes, these women found that the quality of their attention shifted ... Rural Hours is also a provocation to the present. No one could finish this book without concluding that the most important thing to any writer is solitude ... [It] reminds us that today we too often fail to afford our writers this necessity - Charlotte Stroud, Financial Times

Rural Hours is Harriet Baker’s first book and it is immensely readable. It bristles with evocative detail and she invests each chapter with the narrative drive of a short story. [...] Baker is extremely good at finding significance in the ordinary and has a feel for the thinginess of domestic existence, for what teacups or the grocer’s bill can reveal. She sifts quiet periods of homemaking for meaning and honours the bulb-planting, sheet-folding, list-making and resourceful cooking that contributed to the texture of the subjects’ days and fed back into their writing. - Literary Review

Baker conjures the sights and sounds of mid-20th-century rural England with vivid lyricism - The Sunday Times

Rural Hours is beautifully written, and Baker’s reading is wide and deep - Observer

A delightful read, enhanced by quirky photographs – including several of these visionary writers with their goats - Independent

Baker is an elegant and eloquent storyteller – and authoritative even while she’s in thrall, rightly, to the three women who make this book so often fascinating. - Spectator

An absorbing study of the impact of country living on Woolf, Townsend Warner & Lehmann. A meditative exploration of renewal, visionariness—interior & exterior, generative & tormenting—grievous loss, & love—cool & passionate, fragile & enduring - David Hayden

A superb portrait of the complex imprint the countryside makes on the life of the mind, this exquisite book reveals three writers, each vividly drawn in the particularities of her own surroundings, her own difficulties and joys. This book is a thoughtful exploration of rural life and creativity, drawing on deep archival roots and Harriet Baker's unique warmth and eloquence. A treasure - Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat

In this warm, perceptive, eloquent study, Harriet Baker collects some overlooked moments in these women’s lives, and with great honesty and empathy, captures what it felt like to live and write through them. Like Baker’s protagonists in their countryside boltholes I felt “socketed” by this book. I know I’ll return to it again and again - Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse and Art Monsters

The country life, with its dogs and flowers and sunsets, its leaky roofs and depression and boredom, has been an essential part of so many artists' lives, but is often seen as a weekend escape -- a quiet footnote to the more exciting drama of urban striving. Harriet Baker places rural hours at the center of the lives of three great writers, and shows how their works were forged in places whose quiet façades masked inner struggles every bit as tumultuous as the lives of the cities they left - Benjamin Moser, author of The Upside-Down World

[A] group biography with a difference - FT - What to Read in 2024

Amid the hubbub of Christmas, I found sanctuary in this Biographer’s Club Prize-winning account of how the country life profoundly influenced the work of three very different 20th century female authors: Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Rosamond Lehmann - Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

The transition from city to country life is a tale often told, but this absorbing and uplifting new iteration is of decided merit - House and Garden

A poignant portrait of three writers finding their own way - Alice Albinia

Rural Hours makes clear the connection between creativity and place. in this engrossing book, nature is nurture; a place of reverie and renewal that encouraged the rich imaginations of three pioneering writers to seed and bloom. Full of fresh insights and lively prose, I couldn't put it down - Jennifer Higgie

Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury go together like a horse and carriage … How important, then, to be reminded by Harriet Baker in this enjoyable book that Woolf was a countrywoman, too … Baker’s first book brings a fresh perspective to biographical material - Kathryn Hughes, Daily Mail

Fluid, engaging ... Rural Hours brings the much-loved country places of all three writers vividly back to life ... Baker really excels in capturing that elusive sense of place - Vanessa Curtis, Times Literary Supplement

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