Rural Hours

Harriet Baker


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Penguin Books Ltd
4 April 2024
ISBN: 9780241540510
256 pages

From the publisher

1917. Virginia Woolf arrives at Asheham, on the Sussex Downs, immobilized by nervous exhaustion and creative block.

1930. Feeling jittery about her writing career, Sylvia Townsend Warner spots a modest workman's cottage for sale on the Dorset coast.

1941. Rosamond Lehmann settles in a Berkshire village, seeking a lovers' retreat, a refuge from war, and a means of becoming 'a writer again'.

Rural Hours tells the story of three very different women, each of whom moved to the country and were forever changed by it. We encounter them at quiet moments: pausing to look at an insect on the windowsill; jotting down a recipe; or digging for potatoes, dirt beneath their nails. Slowly, we start to see transformations unfold. Invigorated by new landscapes, and the daily trials and small pleasures of making homes, they emerge from long periods of creative uncertainty and private disappointment; they embark on new experiments in form, in feeling and in living. In the country, each woman finds her path: to convalescence and recovery; to sexual and political awakening; and, above all, to personal freedom and creative flourishing.

Graceful, fluid, and enriched by previously untouched archival material, Rural Hours is both a paean to the bravery and vision of three pioneering writers, and a passionate invitation to us all: to recognize the radical potential of domestic life and rural places, and find new enchantment in the routines and rituals of each day.