The church in Oxgodby has a medieval wall painting that is need of uncovering and restoring. For Tom Birkin, a survivor of World War 1, it offers a place of peace and tranquillity to contemplate the past years and to recover from his failed marriage. He is not the only stranger in the village, a man called Charles Moon is also employed to look for a grave on the un-consecrated ground just outside the church.
As Birkin contemplates the events that took place over that idyllic summer, he remembers an English countryside that had undergone little change. It was a time that the nation drew a collective breath after the horrors of the war and had started to return to a pre-war pattern. His acts of rising, talking to Moon and then working on the artwork soothed his nerves and calmed his soul, and the season ground inexorably towards autumn.
Carr has written a book full of subtle nuances and symbolism. By taking these men who have seen things that no man ever should experience, he uses the serenity of an English summer in a small village to dissipate their fears and anger. In this short book, he ventures deep into the roots of happiness and how both joy and sadness are closely linked and form your very person. It is difficult to pin down exactly what makes this such a good book, some of it is its brevity, there is not a wasted word in here, but I think for me it is the way that Carr has captured that very essence of summer distilled it and woven it throughout the book. Will definitely be reading this again.