A Month in the Country
Goodreads ratings
4.11 / 5

"A Month in the Country" Summary

By J.L. Carr

fiction | 135 pages | Published in NaN

In J. L. Carr's deeply charged poetic novel, Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby where he is to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life. But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave. Now, long after, as he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art, he finds in his memories some consolation for all that has been lost.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A man reflects on his life and experiences while restoring a medieval mural in a small English village.


"A Month in the Country" by J.L. Carr is a compelling and evocative novel that takes place in the aftermath of World War I. Set in the English countryside, the story follows the protagonist, Tom Birkin, as he navigates the complexities of love, loss, and healing. Through Carr's masterful storytelling, readers are transported to a time and place where the scars of war are still fresh, and the human spirit yearns for restoration.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The novel is set in the small village of Oxgodby in the summer of 1920. Tom Birkin, a young and emotionally scarred veteran of World War I, arrives in the village to uncover a medieval mural in the local church. As he immerses himself in the task, he becomes entangled in the lives of the villagers, each grappling with their own personal struggles in the aftermath of the war. The idyllic countryside becomes a backdrop for the characters' emotional journeys, and the discovery of the mural parallels the process of healing and restoration.

Main Events

The story unfolds as Tom Birkin delves into the restoration of the mural, facing various challenges and uncovering unexpected truths along the way. Each chapter brings new revelations and insights, ultimately leading to a profound transformation for both Tom and the villagers.

1Tom arrives in Oxgodby and meets the locals
2Tom begins working on the mural
3Tom discovers hidden secrets in the village
4Relationships among the villagers deepen
5Tom's personal healing journey intensifies
6Revelations about the mural and its significance

Main Characters

Tom Birkin

A young, shell-shocked veteran of World War I, Tom is a sensitive and introspective man who seeks solace and purpose in the restoration of the medieval mural. His emotional journey becomes the focal point of the novel, as he grapples with his own inner demons while forming connections with the villagers.


The enigmatic and eccentric archaeologist who accompanies Tom in the restoration project. Moon's unconventional approach and philosophical musings add depth to the narrative, providing both comic relief and profound insights.

Alice Keach

A vibrant and spirited young woman who captures Tom's heart. Her presence in the village and her interactions with Tom offer a glimpse of hope and the possibility of love in the midst of post-war desolation.

Themes and Insights

Healing and Restoration

The novel delves into the theme of healing, both on a personal and communal level. Through the restoration of the mural and the emotional journeys of the characters, Carr explores the transformative power of art and human connection in overcoming the scars of war.

The Impact of War

The lingering effects of World War I loom large in the narrative, shaping the characters' experiences and interactions. Carr masterfully portrays the psychological and emotional toll of war, highlighting its profound and lasting impact on individuals and communities.

The Passage of Time

As the story unfolds in the tranquil countryside, the theme of time emerges as a poignant undercurrent. The characters grapple with the passage of time, confronting the ghosts of the past while embracing the possibility of a future shaped by hope and renewal.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Month in the Country" offers a poignant and introspective exploration of love, loss, and the enduring human spirit. Carr's lyrical prose and vivid portrayal of post-war England immerse readers in a world where the healing power of art and human connection transcends the ravages of history. Through the emotional journeys of the characters, readers are invited to reflect on the resilience of the human heart and the enduring pursuit of beauty and meaning in the face of adversity.


In "A Month in the Country," J.L. Carr weaves a captivating and emotionally resonant narrative that transcends time and place. Through the restoration of a medieval mural in the English countryside, the novel offers a profound meditation on the enduring impact of war, the transformative power of art, and the resilience of the human spirit. As readers accompany Tom Birkin on his journey of healing and self-discovery, they are invited to contemplate the redemptive potential of love, connection, and the pursuit of beauty in a world scarred by the ravages of history.

A Month in the Country FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Month in the Country'?

    A Month in the Country is a novella that falls under the genres of historical fiction and literary fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Month in the Country'?

    A Month in the Country is written by J.L. Carr.

  3. What is the setting of 'A Month in the Country'?

    The story is set in the English countryside in the aftermath of World War I, specifically in the summer of 1920.

  4. What is the plot of 'A Month in the Country'?

    The plot revolves around a young man named Tom Birkin who is hired to uncover a mural in a village church. As he works on the mural, he discovers more about himself and the impact of war on the village.

  5. Is 'A Month in the Country' based on a true story?

    No, 'A Month in the Country' is a work of fiction, although it is set in a historically accurate period.

  6. What are the major themes in 'A Month in the Country'?

    Some of the major themes in the book include the effects of war, healing from trauma, the passage of time, and the power of art.