Sunday, May 1, 2016

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

Melissa Harrison's novel At Hawthorn Time has captured my heart. These are some of the reasons:

  • Storytelling that circles back to the original scene via multiple points of view.
  • A broad cast of characters whose lives intersect mostly tangentially. 
  • Internal lives that feel real, recognizable. 
  • People who pay close attention to the natural world. 
  • Documentation of changes to a rural area over time: human activity versus nature.
  • References to myth (the Green Man, Puck) within a contemporary setting. 
  • Lyric language. The kind that makes me want to reread and underline and hug the book for being so beautiful.

"As the sun rose slowly over Jack's head a hawthorn in the hedge behind him felt the light on its new green leaves and thought with its green mind about blossom."

"The ash was hung here and there with lilac and green frills [...] and a slate-blue nuthatch decanted itself like a shot cork from a hole."

At Hawthorn Time is both nature writing and fiction. The closest readalikes I can think of are nonfiction: H Is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald) and The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Robert MacFarlane) - for engaging, poetic prose that places humans firmly within our natural world. A novel with similar elements of aging, myth, cyclic history, and of humans connecting with landscape is Etta and Otto and Russell and James (Emma Hooper).

I hope this is enough to convince you to read it. You will not regret it.