ALL AMONG THE BARLEY is set in the autumn of 1933. It is the most beautiful autumn Edie Mather can remember, though the Great War still casts a shadow over the cornfields of her beloved home, Wych Farm. When charismatic, outspoken Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to write about fading rural traditions, she takes an interest in fourteen-year-old Edie, showing her a kindness she has never known before. But the older woman isn’t quite what she seems. As harvest time approaches and pressures mount on the whole community, Edie must find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.
The story that Melissa have written covers many of the topics that are on our horizon today: antisemitism, food imports and the impacts they have on farmers, populism , women’s rights, fascism and treatment of mental illness. The story is as relevant today and it was in 1933 and one wonders how come as a society we have not progressed. What I loved about Melissa’s writing is that she does not trivialise or let any one topic dominate the story but rather lets the story flow in a wonderful way as we follow Edie through the autumn. The ending is incredibly moving, surprising and will pack the punch that you’d expect from a novel of this quality.
This is one of the best novels I’ve read this year and I was so glad to have had the chance to read it and champion it for the European Union Prize for Literature. Bloomsbury/ 9781408897973/£8.99