Long Summer Day

It’s the late nineteenth century and Paul Craddock is invalided out of the Boer War. At the same time he inherits some money from his father’s scrap-metal business. Tired of the ugly fighting he’s witnessed and the anonymous bustle of city life, he’s drawn to the sale of a large country estate in Devon. He has much to learn, but Paul promises to be a fair squire and he’s soon respected by the tenant farmers. Although Craddock has purchased something of a rural idyll there is plenty of conflict not only from the daily minutiae of running the estate but also from wider political unrest, the class divides, the rise of the suffragettes showcased by his difficult first marriage, and those in authority striving to become more liberal-minded.
The Devonshire brogue adds immediate authenticity and local characters leap from the page. By way of contrast members of the gentry, the medical profession, opposing politicians, and the church, are equally well-formed and characterised. The push and pull of such diverse relationships form the basis of a family-saga with a big scope. It’s a novel which covers a detailed period of social history rather than follows any one character – but this is what Delderfield does best. Edwardian country life; farming the land, destiny shaped by the rise and fall of ones own hand, the beauty and hardships presented by living in the countryside, the horses, the gentle pace of life. Change was – and is – inevitable, and while much of it was for the better then, I finished this book feeling we’ve lost something along the way…